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Australia has both fascinated me and left me in awe. This large continental island at times reminds me of places I’ve seen on other continents but then something truly unique sings a song or hops by reminding me that this is a different world down here.
Some of my favorite findings are listed below to bring the sights and sounds to my friends and family in the northern hemisphere. The list on this page will grow as we explore more and more of this beautiful land.
Birds of a Feather
I was first captivated by a wonderful warble. We flew into Melbourne in August and checked into an Airbnb late that night. On our first morning, I heard a beautiful complicated song just outside our window. I couldn’t wait to see what bird was serenading our arrival into Australia. This beautiful Australian Magpie is the performer.
As we walked to the grocery store the next day a magpie greeted us and watched us as we walked by.
“He looks intelligent like he is sizing us up,” I said to Trin.
“He just wants the crackers you’re eating,” he replied.
As I’ve watched and studied these beautiful birds over the last few months I’ve learned that they can recognize individual human faces and will form friendships. They can also hold a grudge.
During nesting season the male will protect his young and attack intruders, even humans. I even found a web site where people can report Magpie attacks during the swooping season!
I think this Magpie had a grudge against this blue-tongued lizard, another very cool creature of Australia.
Trin and I were hiking in the Tasmanian Wilderness when suddenly we were surrounded by laughter. We looked all around but could not find the culprit to this racket. It was as if the forest was laughing at us. This was our first introduction to the Kookaburra birds.
They have interrupted our conversations a few times like they did the time we were camping on the Murray River, but we just wait for them to finish their laughter and continue. I find their hefty bodies and unique song fascinating. They are another favorite of mine.
Elusive and vocally talented, they can imitate almost any sound they hear. The Lyrebird can only be found on the east side of Australia including Tasmania. We finally spotted our first Lyrebird on a secluded track leading to a hidden ghost town. We have seen very few since. I hope to see more before we cross the great divide into the Outback.
The Screaming Cockatoo
Flocks of sulfur crested Cockatoos can be found all over the north and east of Australia. They are beautiful to watch but disconcerting when an entire flock decides to fly over screeching their bloody heads off.
I have to mention the wild Australian turkey that seems to have no fear of humans.
Pouches seem to be the thing here. There are about 250 species of animals running around with pouches for their underdeveloped young. There are Kangaroos, Wombats, Tasmanian devils, koalas, sugar gliders, rats, mice, and more that all carry young in pouches. There’s even a frog that carries its eggs in a pouch near the crystal falls. But of course, the frog would not be considered a marsupial.
Only one species of marsupial lives in North America, the possum. Protect that possum, they eat ticks that carry lime disease and they are your only pouched animal.
I have always been fascinated by trees and here in Australia, I have been treated to new species that I never knew existed.
While walking along an oceanfront wooded trail in Tasmania I suddenly stopped in my tracks.
“What is that?” I said to Trin and I started taking pictures.
It looked like grass on top of a tree trunk with a flower stick like a spear growing from the top. As soon as we got back to the car I began to research and found it is called a grass tree. There are 28 species of the grass tree native only to Australia and I had never seen anything like them before.
The name is misleading though. The grass tree is neither grass nor tree. They are actually distantly related to lilies, but it seriously looks like a big tuft of grass with a tree trunk.
These plants are perfectly fit for Australia with their ability to survive the all to common brush fire. Many of the grass trees I saw had charred trunks, old-growth stripped bare, but with a healthy tuft of grass still growing from the top.
Since then I have taken far too many pictures and still exclaim in wonder when I spot a new species of the grass tree. They are cool.
Similar to grass trees the fern trees are also a plant I’m used to seeing grow on the ground and here they are up on tree trunks.
Eucalypti, woolly bottom trees
Who couldn’t love a tree called a woolly bottom tree. Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia. I’ve seen Eucalypti before but walking through an entire forest of trees shedding their bark was a new experience. Their smooth upper trunks and branches are beautiful.
There are more than 700 species of eucalyptus native to Australia. The leaves are toxic to both humans and animals. However, the Koala bears have a special fiber digesting organ that detoxifies the plant. Koalas survive on eucalyptus leaves. Each bear will often have their favorite species that they hang out in all day. They munch on the leaves and sleep most of the day away.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Australia has surpassed my expectations so far. The people, plants, animals, and coasts are all beautiful.