Month: November 2014

Southern Brown Bandicoot Quenda Lesmurdie Falls National Park

Southern Brown Bandicoot – Quenda

Yesterday I spent some time in the bush again and returned as a very happy man. No, I haven’t found any Ornate Dragons – instead I had a superb sighting of an elusive Southern Brown Bandicoot or Quenda (Isoodon obesulus). Often mistaken for large rats, the Quenda is a marsupial roughly the size of a rabbit that forages on insects, small vertebrates and plants in dense shrubland and understory of Eucalypt woodland, a habitat that provides both ample food and security. They use their strong claws to dig cone-shaped hollows for food, most of the time the only trace you’ll find as the slightest movement or sound generally makes this wary animal rush back to its nest for cover – long skirts from grass trees are often favourite spots. The Southern Brown Bandicoot population has been protected as numbers declined due to habitat loss and feral predators. However, the Western Shield feral predator control program from the Department of Parks and Wildlife has brought a recent recovery, and not only the Bandicoot but also other …

Southern Tree Agama Mpila Hluhluwe-Imfolozi

Southern Tree Agama – Chasing Dragons

The past week showed some rather erratic spring weather – glorious sunny days with temperatures in the high thirties immediately followed by unusually cool days. Especially the cloudy ones didn’t help me much in the search of my next wildlife-fix: the Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus). This colourful lizard lives in and around the numerous granite outcrops near our tree hut, and with their extremely flattened body it shelters in ridiculously narrow crevices. On about every sunny day I expect them to be out there basking on some boulder, but for almost one year now I have been looking in vain. It’s frustrating although I know that patience and perseverance are the key words here. However, sometimes nature provides us with wildlife effortlessly – just by being at the right place at the right time we are able to witness the most memorable spectacles. This made me think of an encounter with a Southern Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis). This arboreal African dragon was sitting unhurriedly in a tree right next to our bungalow in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi’s Mpila camp …

Australian pelicans Murchison River Kalbarri NP

Pelicans of the Murchison

The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is a mighty animal. Amongst the heaviest flying birds in the world – a full-grown male can weigh more than 10 kg – Australian Pelicans are native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor. Although evolved from seabirds, Pelicans mostly reside on rivers, coastal inlets and lakes of the interior. In fact, massive colonies of up to 100,000 birds are known to congregate occasionally on arid inland lakes such as Lake Eyre South and Lake Goolangirie after heavy rains and floods, only to disperse again over the vast continent in search of new food sources. How Pelicans exactly find their way between the coast and the interior is an unsolved mystery, however, in order to travel these long distances birds this big need to feed on a substantial amount of fish. Equipped with a long bill and a stretchy pouch that can hold up to 10 litres of water, Pelicans can therefore be seen fishing almost continuously. Although most individuals are perfectly able to catch their own …

Quandong Native Peach Santalum acuminatum

Bush Tucker # 2 – Quandong

Out of all plants the Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) is probably Australia’s most significant bush tucker. It was widely recognised as a source of food and medicine by Aborigines while the aromatic wood was used in their smoking ceremonies. Given the fact that it has adapted extremely well to the arid conditions of the country’s interior the Quandong has often been referred to as ‘Jewel of the Desert’ or ‘Desert Peach’ – one of the plant’s remarkable features is that it is semi-parasitic, with its roots cheekily attached to neighbouring plants for moisture and nutrition in order to survive. The ripe red fruit was a staple food for Aborigines and would be consumed raw or dried for later use – dried Quandongs can be perfectly reconstituted in water years later! The inside of the succulent fruit contains an edible oil-rich kernel with many uses such as skin moisturiser, ointment or ornamental bead. The best place to look for them is underneath the trees – but as emus are particularly fond of the sour tasting fruit the undigested …

Twining Frinch Lily Thysanotus patersonii

Bush Tucker # 1 – Tjunguri

Ever since watching Major Leslie James Hiddins’s (aka ‘The Bush Tucker Man’) television shows back in the 90’s I’m totally fascinated by whatever resources nature provides man to survive. I’ll never forget the Major driving around in his Perentie – talking with that Aussie twang about everything edible from underneath his trademark Akubra hat. The episode that stayed with me most is about Burke and Wills, the famous explorers who died of starvation in The Cooper surrounded by ample quantities of Nardoo or Desert Fern – used by local aborigines as an important food source and given to the explorers to eat. They first consumed it without a problem and soon after started to collect and prepare their own. Despite the consumption of substantial quantities they grew weaker and thinner and developed tremors of hands, feet and legs and a slowing pulse. By not following or observing the correct recipe – roasting the spore cases before grinding them into a fine powder – Burke and Wills developed a disease known as Beri-Beri or Thiamine (Vitamine B1) …