The Araucaria team seek wildlife on an island near Brisbane

The Melaleuca Wetlands are adjacent to the beach
The Melaleuca Wetlands are adjacent to the beach

For some years now we’ve been conducting tours to Coochiemudlo Island, an attractive and varied little subtropical  island with long sandy beaches over which thousands of blue crabs march as the tide recedes, rocky platforms, mangroves, coastal woodlands and red cliffs much prized by the Aboriginals, who used the red ochre for body painting and trade with mainland groups. Bush stone-curlews, with their arresting stares, raptors, butterflies, bush-birds, shorebirds and a variety of sea creatures in rock pools all add to the charm of this island, so close to Brisbane yet often so deserted as holiday-makers rush to the far more commercialized Gold Coast.

Unlike most crabs, they travel forwards instead of sideways' often marching across the beach in search of food as the tide goes out: hence the name 'soldier crab.'
Unlike most crabs, they travel forwards instead of sideways’ often marching across the beach in search of food as the tide goes out: hence the name ‘soldier crab.’
There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.
There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.

Darren and I have recently been employed by Coochiemudlo Coast Care (under a grant from Redlands Shire Council) to conduct a fauna survey o the Melaleuca (tea-tree) Wetlands over four seasons (mid-summer, mid-autumn, mid-winter and mid-spring, with a view to enhancing conservation management plans. We completed the first session in January, with a team of volunteers to help set, check and wash traps (used to capture animals which are promptly released after identification).

The delights of staying overnight, listening to the weird, wild calls of the stone-curlews, watching the sun and moon rise over the waters and wandering safe bush tracks at night are encouraging us to add overnight stays to our island tours. We may also in future involve our tourists in some weed eradication (an on-going threat to the native understorey plants) in conjunction with the excellent programs by Coochiemudlo Coast Care, and spotting species in a monitoring program.  Let us know in comments below or by emailing us at info@learnaboutwildlife.com if interested.

Exploring the Wetlands. Tea-tree wetlands have disappeared from much of their former range on the mainland.
Exploring the Wetlands. Tea-tree wetlands have disappeared from much of their former range on the mainland.
The Melaleuca Wetlands are on the edge of an east-facing beach, and we were rewarded on our very first night by a beautiful moonrise.
The Melaleuca Wetlands are on the edge of an east-facing beach, and we were rewarded on our very first night by a beautiful moonrise.

Results will not be public until completion of the survey, but here are a few photos from our visit, which included live trapping and release, walking the trails day and night and setting motion-sensing cameras.

Bearded dragon eating one of the thousands of cicadas that were calling during the survey.
Bearded dragon eating one of the thousands of cicadas that were calling during the survey.

 

Striped marshfrogs were plentiful at night.
Striped marshfrogs were plentiful at night.
A net-casting spider. Instead of sitting in a large web they make a small one to throw over their prey.
A net-casting spider. Instead of sitting in a large web they make a small one to throw over their prey.

A useful Wildlife Photography link

Photographing wildlife: a useful link

Darren_film_goannaAn American  leader of youth activities emailed me to say the young
people at her camp were googling about wildlife photography, and came up
with this link.

We want to thank all of the kids in Ms. Martin’s class for sharing this
with us and we hope for great things from them in the future.  Thank you for the information and keep up the great work, kids!

Here is the link:

“The Beginners’ Guide to Wildlife Photography”
http://www.cctvcameraworld.com/beginners-guide-to-wildlife-photography.html

I have already shared this on the Wildlife Tourism Australia website, but thought it may also reach sophotographing_jellyfishme interested persons here.

There are some excellent tips and it also includes links to a number of other very useful sites, some of which link to further sites …
Well worth taking a look if you want to improve your wildlife photography

Australia’s third wildlife tourism conference a great success

Preparation for this conference has taken a lot of my time this year, and that of fellow organizers Roger Smith and Caz Bartholomew of Echidna Walkabout Tours in Victoria

The conference was organized by Wildlife Tourism Australia, of which I’m chair and Roger is vice chair, and held in Geelong, Victoria.  Our primary sponsor was Tourism Victoria, other sponsors and supporters including Parks Victoria, Phillip Island NatureParks, Rocklily Wombats, Zoos Victoria, Moonlit Sanctuary, Longhorne Tours, Echidna Walkabout and Araucaria Ecotours

About 140 people attended, including delegates, organizers, keynote speakers, sponsors and volunteers.

The program can be downloaded here, showing titles of all presentations and round table discussions       ConferenceProgram

A report of the conference can be viewed here:

http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/blog/events/wildlife-tourism-conference-geelong-2015/

There were excellent presentations by academic researchers, tourism practitioners, government officials  and others, and much lively but amicable discussion on a wide range of topics.  We could easily have kept talking for another couple of weeks!

Delegates gathering at the welcome reception
Delegates gathering at the welcome reception

Final week in Africa

After the Think Tank near Kruger NP, I had to find my way to my second conference, Frugivory and Seed Dispersal 2015, in the Drakensbergs

All went well for several hours, although I was slowed down a bit by lengthy detours from roadworks, until I left Bergville, close to sunset, and the longer I drove the less it looked like I was going the right way. Finally it was quite dark and I was driving down narrow country roads with people, goats and cows occasionally wandering along on them.  I stopped to ask directions from some ladies, but we had some language problems, or perhaps they just hadn’t hard of my destination.  Finally when driving through a small village I saw a shop that was open, pulled up to the door and called out to the shop attendant.  He was friendly and helpful and told me I had to travel the 20 km back to Bergville and take the road out the other side. When I finally got to the right road and saw a sign pointing to Alpine Heath Resort I actually called out ‘thank you’ to it.

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The Alpine Heath Resort is in a dramatic setting in the Drakensbergs.

People from all over the world presented fascinating papers over the next few days on seed dispersal by frugivores (fruit eating animals), from insects to elephants.  I presented a report on some work-in-progress on what determines whether native fig seeds and seedlings germinate and persist after being dispersed by birds and bats.

There were symposia on ecology and evolution, the chemical ecology of seed dispersal, international networks, patterns and processes in frugivore-plant interactions, understanding seed dispersal, see dispersal and plant recruitment in a changing world, anthropogenic impacts on seed dispersal, seed dispersal by animals as an ecological filter, movement ecology and genetic effects, and conservation of environmental services, with many good talks presented within each.

You can download a copy of the abstracts of presentations here: http://www.fsd2015.ukzn.ac.za/images/ABJULFINAL.pdf

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FSDdinner

A mid-week fieldtrip took us to the Nambiti Game Reserve where I had my final chance to see lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and rhinos, as well as my first hartebeest and oryx (the oryx is Namibian rather than South African, but have been released into the reserve)

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Hartebeest
Hartebeest

 

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Seeng an orx
Seeing an oryx

 

NambitiGriaffe

After the conference I booked for a horse ride that included a wild gallop up a hill and my first view of an eland.  During the conference I had also seen jackals and small antelopes at night, plus a number of birds, and heard that someone had seen secretary birds flying over. I suggested n my feedback form to the resort that they mention the wildlife in their promotion, and they have responded that they will try to fit it in to their website.

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The next International Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium will be held in India in 2020.

Africa Diary: Best En Think Tank

One last elephant by the roadside on my way out of Kruger. A good-tempered one this time, just quietly feeding.
One last elephant by the roadside on my way out of Kruger. A good-tempered one this time, just quietly feeding.

I’ve left Kruger, and am staying at the Protea Hotel ready for the BEST Education Network Think Tank XV: The Environment People Nexus in Sustainable Tourism: Finding the Balance. I’m still just across the river though, so can look across into Kruger and still hope to see elephants and hippos, and there are monkeys and birds in the garden. We’ll also be having a conference field trip back into Kruger tomorrow for a sunset drive.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to switch my mental faculties now from wildlife-watching mode to conference and networking mode. I would have liked another month or so of the wildlife watching, but this should be a very worthwhile conference. Because I’m representing Wildlife Tourism Australia at the Think Tank, I’ll now switch to recording events, including interesting bit of information and ideas from the conference and notes on our field trips, on the Wildlife Tourism Australia blog: http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au

Africa Diary: Final days in Kruger NP

(NOTE: this is not one of our own tours: I’m exploring Kruger NP before attending two conferences in South Africa)

Diary continued…

I’m really going to miss Kruger! I could easily spend a couple of months here.  Or more.

Kudu are the most common browsers in the Pretoriaskop region. Beautiful animals!
Kudu are the most common browsers in the Pretoriaskop region. Beautiful animals!
A bushbuck was wandering around the picnic area at Asfaal. I was told an elephant wandered in one day!
A bushbuck was wandering around the picnic area at Asfaal. I was told an elephant wandered in one day!

Visitors to my on table (and no, they didn’t get a feed) included glossy starling, yellow-billed hornbill (known locally as the ‘flying banana’) and female and male red-winged starlings

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I made a sound while drinking my sparking marula juice which seemed to arouse this giraffe’s curiosity giraffe through window

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As I said, all animals have right-of-way here, and with some you don’t get much choice anyway!

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This elephant was n a really bad mood. Ear-flapping is a warning, but ears flattened against the head and the trunk curled up could mean a serious attack is imminent.  I decided to go back the other way, and warned other motorists heading in that direction
This elephant was n a really bad mood. Ear-flapping is a warning, but ears flattened against the head and the trunk curled up could mean a serious attack is imminent. I decided to go back the other way, and warned other motorists heading in that direction

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My ‘home’ for my last two nights: a cabin at Skukuza, with its own fridge and shower/toilet (my hut at Pretoriaskop didn’t have these, but its communal ablution block had a bath tub with plenty of hot water: great for relaxing before bed)

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You don’t have to be in one of those very expensive luxury safari lodges to enjoy a hearty, leisurely breakfast  while watching hippos, elephants and a variety of birds from your dining table

Breakfast at Skukuza: all-you-can eat buffet for about $12 Australian
Breakfast at Skukuza: all-you-can eat buffet for about $12 Australian
Definitely the most delicious snails I've ever had. Succulent and flavoursome themselves, and, with garlic butter and melted be cheese
Definitely the most delicious snails I’ve ever had. Succulent and flavoursome themselves, and, with garlic butter and melted be cheese

 

Quite an eventful morning (16th June)

First there was a small pack of wild dogs on the road towards Lower Sabie.  One somehow became separated from the others, stood near my car, occasionally whimpering like a domestic dog, looking for his fellows and finally took off back into the bush

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Soon after, I heard impalas making a fuss about something, so drove down a gravel road in their direction. There I watched two lionesses stalking a giraffe. The giraffe was understandably looking very nervous, and part of me wanted to reassure him that everything’s okay, he’s not about to be killed. On the other hand, those lionesses probably have cubs to feed, and it would take a lot of impala to equal the food supply in one giraffe. I had no desire to see something killed, but I was rather fascinated as to what they intended to actually do. The giraffe’s legs are so long, they could easily walk under its belly even if one was riding on the back of the other. A kick from a giraffe can kill a human, so it can probably do a bit of damage to a lion. How do you tackle something that big?

They finally seemed to decide it was too difficult after all.

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Further along the road there was a traffic jam.  The cause was a big male lion and two lionesses relaxing by the roadside, creating great excitement amongst visitors.

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By now I was feeling a little peckish, and called in at the same picnic stop that had trouble with baboons a few days ago.  I bought a cup of tea and a bag of chips, and the lady had to let me out the other (till now locked) door, as there was a large baboon waiting outside the door I’d come through, ready to leap at my chip bag.

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A marabou stork gains the sunrise on my final morning in Kruger
A marabou stork against the sunrise on my final morning in Kruger

 

Africa Diary: to Lower Sabie and Pretoriaskop, Kruger National Park

(NOTE: this is not one of our own tours: I’m exploring Kruger NP before attending two conferences in South Africa)

Diary continued…

I drove cautiously past a big herd of Buffalo on my way south from Satara, Kruger NP
I drove cautiously past a big herd of Buffalo on my way south from Satara, Kruger NP

 

... and a few minutes later two lions crossed the road!
… and a few minutes later two lions crossed the road!
This is an animal I'd missed out on on both previous visits.  The little Klipspringer, a tiny antelope that lives in much the same habitat as our rock wallabies and apparently just as good at dashing up steep cliffs
This is an animal I’d missed out on on both previous visits. The little Klipspringer, a tiny antelope that lives in much the same habitat as our rock wallabies and apparently just as good at dashing up steep cliffs

 

White rhino near Lower Sabie.  The name is a misnomer, the British misunderstanding the Boer word for 'wide.' It is a grazer, with a wide mouth. The ;black' rhino has a narrow mouth and browses on leaves of shrubs and trees.
White rhino near Lower Sabie. The name is a misnomer, the British misunderstanding the Boer word for ‘wide.’ It is a grazer, with a wide mouth. The ;black’ rhino has a narrow mouth and browses on leaves of shrubs and trees.
Lower Sabie is in an excellent position  for hippo watching!
Lower Sabie is in an excellent position for hippo watching!
My tent in Lower Sabie
My tent in Lower Sabie
Baboons really do make their presence felt, as I found out the next day
Baboons really do make their presence felt, as I found out the next day
Sunrise on the Sabie River
Sunrise on the Sabie River

 

I was thrilled to see two lionesses just after dawn
I was thrilled to see two lionesses just after dawn

 

On the way back towards Sjukiza (which I passed through on route to Pretoriaskop) this baboon opened the door of the shop at the picnic area. Another, bigger one was already inside not allowing shopkeepers access to the cash box
On the way back towards Sjukiza (which I passed through on route to Pretoriaskop) this baboon (in the tree, watching the shop at the picnic area)  opened the door and dashed around inside until hunted out with a broomstick. Another, bigger one was already inside not allowing shopkeepers access to the cash box

 

This monkey looks all innocence, but after this photo he leapt to another table and stole a cake.
This monkey looks all innocence, but after this photo he leapt to another table and stole a cake.

 

Animals at picnic areas are a problem, not just for the humans, but for the animals themselves.  If they get too demanding, as they can do after learning how profitable picnics can be, the rangers may have to remove them, even putting them down if they are dangerous (as large baboons certainly can be, and hyenas even more so: the strength of their jaws is second only to crocodiles).

Africa Diary: Satara (2 nights)

I didn’t see the lions I’d hoped for here (Satara is famous for them) but had plenty of other sightings while driving by day and with a  ranger on a sunset drive

Day time

The sun was still rising as I headed out of camp
The sun was still rising as I headed out of camp

 

Elephants have right of way! Well, so do all wildlife in Kruger, but some elephants really know how t enforce it.
Elephants have right of way! Well, so do all wildlife in Kruger, but some elephants really know how t enforce it.

 

Male ostrich
Male ostrich
His mate nearby seemed intent on watching an apparent play fight between two wildebeest
His mate nearby seemed intent on watching an apparent play fight between two wildebeest

 

Zebra suckling
Zebra suckling

 

A very colourful barbet came hopping right up to my car
A very colourful barbet came hopping right up to my car

 

A fish eagle arrives at a dam near Satara
A fish eagle arrives at a dam near Satara

 

Elephants come to drink at the dam. This is part of a breeding herd of about 20 elephants
Elephants come to drink at the dam. This is part of a breeding herd of about 20 elephants

 

Many others, including these baboons, came down for a drink - also giraffes zebras wildebeest, waterbucks and impalas
Many others, including these baboons, came down for a drink – also giraffes zebras wildebeest, waterbucks and impalas

 

 

Sunset Drive

 

Buffalo, towards sunset
Buffalo, towards sunset

 

We saw porcupine. civet and a pair of bull elephants fighting, but not enough light to take good photos
We saw porcupine. civet and a pair of bull elephants fighting, but not enough light to take good photos

 

A marula tree in the sunset
A marula tree in the sunset

Africa Diary: Kruger NP, 3 days in Tamboti

(including solo drives to Satara and elsewhere, and a sunset drive with a ranger)

My home for three nights in Tamboti My home for three nights in Tamboti

The fridge and food cupboard are closed in sturdy ire mesh to protect against monkeys, baboons and honey badgers
The fridge and food cupboard are enclosed in sturdy ire mesh to protect against monkeys, baboons and honey badgers
This verve monkey appeared as soon as I started unpackng my food and I had to tell him ]fairly sternly that no, he was not allowed to leap into the food cupboard
This verve monkey appeared as soon as I started unpackng my food and I had to tell him ]fairly sternly that no, he was not allowed to leap into the food cupboard

 

Day time driving (solo):

Hippo with ox-peckers of back, crocodile and terrapins
Hippo with ox-peckers of back, crocodile and terrapins

 

A pir of amorous warthogs just after dawn
A pir of amorous warthogs just after dawn
The ground hornbill, far bigger than  the other hornbills. There's public call to report any seen with coloured bands pn their legs, burt the two I saw were unbnded
The ground hornbill, far bigger than the other hornbills. There’s public call to report any seen with coloured bands pn their legs, burt the two I saw were unbanded

 

A female kudu reaching up for levels
A female kudu reaching up for levels
On my last journey out of Tamboti a leopard crossed the road in front of me and headed off into the bush
On my last journey out of Tamboti a leopard crossed the road in front of me and headed off into the bush
I always love watching baboons
I always love watching baboons

 

 

Sunset drive with ranger:

Cheetah
Cheetah
Lion feasting on a giraffe that had slipped and drowned i a waterhole. The giraffe was pulled from the water by a tractor but too late to save it.
Lion feasting on a giraffe that had slipped and drowned i a waterhole. The giraffe was pulled from the water by a tractor but too late to save it.
Budhbaby
Budhbaby
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Civet
kruger3nHyena
Hyena: I had heard them calling the night before

African Diary: Kruger NP Skukuza to Tamboti

 

White rhino near Skukuza: I hop he continues to evade any poachers.  There are signs up in public places here asking people to report any suspicious activity that could lead to arrests. Some poachers have been apprehended after tourists raised alarms
White rhino near Skukuza: I hop he continues to evade any poachers. There are signs up in public places here asking people to report any suspicious activity that could lead to arrests. Some poachers have been apprehended after tourists raised alarms

 

A handsome male kudu
A handsome male kudu

 

Wildebeest: they look top heavy, but their legs are as graceful and swift as racehorses.
Wildebeest: they look top heavy, but their legs are as graceful and swift as racehorses.

 

Hippos basking: they don't feed in the water, or during the day, but come out onto the grassy plain at night to graze
Hippos basking: they don’t feed in the water, or during the day, but come out onto the grassy plain at night to graze

 

Giraffes are very vulnerable to lions in this position.  He did look around a bit before bending.  Maybe he decided there were enough wildebeest to distract any approaching lions.
Giraffes are very vulnerable to lions in this position. He did look around a bit before bending. Maybe he decided there were enough wildebeest to distract any approaching lions.

 

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A black-backed jackal resting after feeding on a rhino carcass (I hope the rhino died of natural causes, not poaching)
A black-backed jackal resting after feeding on a rhino carcass (I hope the rhino died of natural causes, not poaching)