Sometimes we travel long distances in the hope of finding our favourite animals. The idea is to cover as much ground as possible to increase chances of crossing paths somewhere along the track. However, some of our most memorable wildlife encounters were right at the doorsteps from more or less permanent residences; rest camps, look-outs, campgrounds or, more recently, our own house aka Tree hut. Yes, staying put and quietly observing your immediate surroundings is often the best way to enjoy wildlife in a much more relaxed and natural way – at least in my humble opinion.
Yesterday we experienced another highlight so incredibly nearby. Just when I wanted to go for a late afternoon run a rustling noise in the bush drew the attention of my wife. Careful analysing the sound we came to the conclusion it couldn’t be one of the Western Grey Kangaroos living in the reserve. Quickly grabbing the camera and climbing over the fence of the garden we tried to discover the tiniest movement in the scrubby undergrowth of the adjacent jarrah forest. Once we located the possible hide-out from the still unknown creature we moved in stealth mode to get closer. It was under some dense heath where I first spotted this spooked short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), curled into a football-sized pincushion, with its spines presented in every direction.
When threatened an Echidna won’t try to run; instead, it starts digging furiously with its powerful claws in order to protect its vulnerable parts. To get a better view of this monotreme (an early and truly unique branch of egg-laying mammals only found in Australia and New Guinea) we knew we had to be as silent as possible. As with most wildlife encounters persistence got rewarded with the Echidna moving off, showing its typical long-nosed snout which is used to poke in rotten tree logs and termite mounds. Realising that a frightened Echidna will clearly remember an area perceived as unsafe we better avoid his home range for a while.