In your backyard..
The following fauna is familiar in the Australian bush and if you’re lucky you may see it in your backyard..
Perhaps for its iconic bird song alone, the Kookaburra’s distinctive laughter is quintessentially Australian.
It is a member of the Kingfisher family (of which there are more than ten Australian species)* and is also known as the laughing jackass.
It has a large head, a massive neck and bill for catching prey and breaking their necks. Earth tone camouflage plumage and the ability to perch motionless and undetected are ideally suited for catching prey.
*Of these there are strictly only two true kingfishers: the Azure Kingfisher and the Little Kingfisher of the genus Ceyx.
Kookaburra, Dacelo gigas
ii) ‘you can’t see me, i’m camouflaged’
iii) ‘is this real grub?’
iv) three’s a crowd
Aptly named the Blue tongue, the Tiliqua Scincoides or Blue Tongued Skink has a characteristic and distinct blue coloured tongue. It is a relatively large lizard, up to 45cm in length in some cases.
It is ground feeding, omnivorous and its diet includes snails, slugs, fruit, berries, flowers and insects. Grey stripes cover most of its body contrasting with a pale grey belly. The limbs are especially small and the head is a characteristic triangular shape.
It is relatively common in Australian suburbs and can be bred in captivity.
Blue Tongue, Tiliqua scincoides
i), ii) & iii) climbing a step
iv) ‘smile & i’ll crack the lens’ v) distant relative..
The Koala hardly needs an introduction as it is so celebrated and is universally recognised as an Australian symbol. Its closest living relative is the wombat and is found in coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia (not Western Australia or Tasmania).
The diet is primarily eucalypt leaves and the limited nutritional and caloric content demands twenty hours of sleep a day.
If you see a koala up a tree alone and drenched in torrential rain, don’t underestimate it. Having especially thick insulating fur (the most of any marsupial) it is specifically adapted to stave off wind and rain as well as solar radiation. Unique body symmetry and long claws mean for tree scaling and effortless mobility in treetops.
Large scale culling of koalas early in Twentieth Century resulted in public outcry and the species is since protected and has established sanctuaries. Re-habitation and breeding programs are re-establishing numbers.
Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus
i) ‘yes, i know i’m handsome but hurry up’
ii) well, hello
iii) two opposable digits for grasping
Champions of navigation and flying, pigeons and doves have adapted to vastly variable habitats. The Crested Pigeon is known for its beautiful head feathers, bright pink legs and feet and its subtle coloured wing feathers. A single ‘woo’ call and a special tinkling sound created during take-off are also distinctive. The Crested Pigeon must have close proximity to water.
Crested Pigeon, Ocyphaps lophotes
i), ii) & iii) ‘yes, i know i’m pretty’
(from Kuku koala)
Take your camera to the Tour Down Under
Stage three of the Tour Down Under is an exciting and immersive experience filled with a heady mix of high tech machines and physicality.
The TDU is now fifteen years old and that a city should embrace cycling with such commitment and vitality is testimony to its success. Similarly, other festival cities such as Monaco and Edinburgh seem to share a mix of community and festive spirit that is perhaps the envy of larger cities.
Stage three begins at Norwood in the city with a challenging race distance of 143.2 km ending at Paracombe nestled in the Adelaide Hills. But the competitors are all smiles and easy charm as they breeze past the media throng taking it ‘in their stride’. Their attention is fleeting as they prepare themselves slowly circling on carbon fibre technology and congregating at the start line. And in a blink of an eye the cyclists are already pacing away followed up by the team cars and support crew. Its a beautiful, festive sight and the buoyant crowd is anticipating a tremendous marathon race.
Ironically the first english speaking World Tour stage race, the TDU has rapidly gained world attention for its combination of superstars as well as the cream of Australian Cycling. 2015 marks the final Tour for champion cyclist Cadel Evans. Since its beginning in 1999, the race has grown from relatively obscurity to an impressive international event with a television audience of many millions. It is a six day event with various stages and cyclists competing for the coveted Ochre Jersey. Part of the success of the Tour has to do with its uniqueness (aside from its considerable organisation and sponsorship): the rolling hills and sunny aspect (a welcome relief from Northern Hemisphere winter) has exciting finishes demanding sprints and drawing big crowds in finishing towns. The other is the winding course through regional settlements and wineries strikingly similar to their race counterparts (Southern France, Spain et el).
It is not surprising that all-out sprinters such as Andre Greipel are so suited to TDU winning eleven stages. Finally and not least, the Tour’s success has to do with the city’s enthusiasm and embracing it with a zeal that has as much to with its fanatical and genuine cycle culture as its inherent festival culture. The Bupa Stage Four of the TDU attracts thousand of recreational participants. It is also not surprising the TDU is contributing to the rise of the sport in this country and enabling it to become one of the strongest cycling nations.
(2) ‘A brief history of the Tour Down Under’ by Duncan Palmer
(3) Nikon DSLR camera