Feb 21, 2009

Australia Exploration

Well the biggest event of the new year so far has been my 2 week trip to Australia.

Lady R's family was nice enough to bring me along for a big family gathering they had this month. If you're reading family oh R, again THANK YOU!!!

Given the current natural disasters that are ravaging through that country right now, it was a very epic and memorable time to be there. There was a lot of loss and hardship, but at the same time it was amazing to see the whole country rally to the aid of the bushfire and flood victims!
Fortunately I was in the one part of the country that didn't seem to be falling apart...
We arrived in Sydney right at the conclusion of the massive heatwave it was having. For us it was cloudy and rainy in Aussie the whole time though. Honestly a good thing. They really needed the rain! At the same time a day or two of sun to enjoy the beaches or pools I had available would have been nice...

I gained a new nickname though. The rainmaker. Which is funny, as the rain followed me back here. In Dunedin the last few days we've had a "practise winter" with constant rain and temperatures under 10 degrees (remember that our summers and winters are the opposite of the North).

However being the trooper I am, I didn't let a little thing like rain and bad weather get me down!

I spent as much time as I could out hunting for wildlife!

Boy was I successful! Australia ranks very very high in my list of wild places. I saw way more stuff in two weeks there than my 2 years in New Zealand (granted most of NZ's coolest stuff was wiped out years ago sadly).

Sadly the I was under strict orders from Lady R to avoid any:
  1. Snakes

  2. Sharks

  3. or Spiders

In other words all the fun critters I could find (minus crocodiles, but they just don't live that far South in Australia...).

Sadly I managed to not see any of the listed critters (at least till later in the trip!). However I was not one to let that damper my danger seeking spirit, and within my first day I found one of the most venomous critters on Earth! Fortunately not on Lady R's list. So no trouble for me!

Unlike New Zealand, Australia has proper tidal pools for me to explore. Unlike North American tidal pools though, it turns out these ones have deadly critters!

Such as this one... I stumbled across it 10 minutes after launching my pool exploration.

A Blue Ringed Octopus!!! Well, okay it was probably a not very dangerous Southern Rock Octopus after further research, but at the time I was primed to have just found and photographed a cephalopod in the wild! It was cooler as there was a chance it could have been a blue ringed!!!

Here he is in moving action. The moment he figured out I was there based on his actions you'll see.
Out doing me in spectacle Lady R 3-5 minutes later found this much larger wounded Octopus in a much easier and small pool. As much as this poor hurt guy wanted to hide, he couldn't. There was nothing in his "pool" for him to duck under. The white marks are heavy damage to his tentacles and body.

Speaking of doomed individuals. The weirdest and coolest discovery I made was of this baby moray eel. It was definitely a Moray, but just really tiny at 20-25cm long. The poor guy could barely move, that alone defend itself (I got it to finally bite my exploration stick only after putting it RIGHT in front of the head).

The reason for all the in rough shape wildlife? There'd be a HUGE storm the night before, and my theory is it damaged a lot of stuff offshore, and washed the hurt ones into the pools (note my first octopus was fine, and I think he was supposed to live there, unlike Lady R's giant).

Lucky for me Australia has tons of poisonous critters. Far too many for Lady R to ban me from seeing. Including this little "blue bottle"... a Man-o-war!!! Which Lady R and Mama R almost walked on with bare feet (I always wear footwear just in case... you never know what you might step on!). In their defense it was an otherwise beautiful sandy beach.

For the first couple days I was taunted by Pelicans such as these flying over head. All I'd manage were distant blurry digital zoomed photographs like these.

Till on the third day, during a brief break from the weather (among the three times it could have passed for almost nice weather), I discovered where the Pelicans were gathering and flocking too.

The outlet for a river into the ocean. It was teaming with bait fish, which the Pelicans naturally were trying to eat.

On hands and knees I crept up to photograph them here. It may look like the Zoo, but I assure you that concrete in the background was just a left over of a long abandoned dock or something.

This for a day was my best photo. Digital Zoom grainy yes, but passable for an okay photo.
Thinking myself quite the sneaky nature photographer I was very happy with this till...

On a drive through a small fishing town we spotted a harbour that was lined to the brim with Pelicans. All of whom were unbelievably tame.
So much so that at one point I jokingly tried to encourage one to fly by flapping my arms. It just looked at me like I was insane (probably justified really).

So I was able to leisurely walk right up to them and take pictures like this... No zoom or anything!
Awesome, but diminished my earlier crawling.

Than in the middle of my trip I met my newest obsession, and bane to photograph. The Kookaburra, king of the kingfishers.
As you can see from this early attempted photo they had me at a total disadvantage. Not only would they keep their distance, but they only hung out around the house at dawn. The worst lighting imaginable for photograph...
For several days I tried futilely to capture a single okay photo.
Than on the early morning I got up before they showed up, I made a key discovery. The Kookaburras were coming to our house because of frogs who were getting trapped in the pool!

Cool (which you'll note rhymes with the just mentioned pool)! Not only I was I doing some hardcore urban zoology, but I now had some bait with which the Kookaburras might come into range for!

My plan worked. Only sadly the darn birds were fast, and backed up with dawn lighting I was doomed. Sure I took photos of cool moments of Kookys grabbing frogs from the pool (this was the best of those photos), but you can't tell that's what their doing.
By the tail end of the trip I was despairing. I hadn't managed to see on at close range at all.
Finally Mama R showed me a trick with ground beef to lure them in close. The first time
produced several okay (but still blurry on account of it being now dusk) photos.

However on my last day towards the last minute I was able to lure a single brave Kooky down in broad day light and snapped about 30 awesome photos!!!
I totally fell in love with these birds on this trip. Probably a bit more about that soon.
It also turns out the ants are hardcore down under. This guy is about 3 times the size of the average Alberta ants I'm used to. His pincers alone were about 1/3 the length of one of those small ants. Glad I didn't tangle with these guys!

We had an interesting nighttime visitor one night. A little treefrog squeezed through a tiny crack in our bathroom, and was found by lady R in the middle of the night.
I launched a locate and rescue operation, made all the more difficult by his escaping from the bathroom (you'll note all the carpet lint all over him in this photo). I was successful in about 3 minutes and released him back outside (though he made a sprint for the still open door after I let him out... cheeky little thing!).

Remember how I wasn't supposed to go find spiders. Well I didn't, they found me!
This was a fairly dangerous trapdoor spider walking across the pool.

Lurking in the shed were massive huntmans. Note the power plug in for scale. This was one BIG spider!

At the very end of our trip me and Lady R explored Sydney for 2 days. Saw lots of cool stuff, like the local zoo, aquarium, and of course museum.

Here is a teaser, but that's all you're going to get out of me.
You'll have to wait till Traumador takes his trip to Sydney to see the rest!

Funny enough on this last day we actually got some nice weather.

Sadly it was on this note we had to bid Sydney farewell, and return to crap weather here in Dunedin.

Oh well had a fun time. Saw some amazing things, and got to hang with my special girl.

Thanks once again to Mama R for letting me come along (and ruin the trip ;P )


Raptor Lewis said...
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Raptor Lewis said...
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Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

The rainmmaker? welll... that sounds good. So... you are a sort of wizard!
WOW! I've never been that close to any living octopus in my life!
That kingfisher looks cute, I've only seen one of them in my whole life. Where I studied there was a pond and I spotted one of these birdies fishing!