we're a wildlife IN THE WILD tour operator. Our mission is to ensure the free-living future of Australian wildlife, and to give them a voice. Wild animals have inherent value, as wild creatures, but we need to learn to value them. Good, respectful, sustainable wildlife tourism gives them a value and a voice.
Full List of Reptiles of East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
East Gippsland, Victoria has 50 native extant (living) reptile species. They represent 8 families in 1 order. East Gippsland comprises only 0.3% of Australia’s total area, but is home to over 5% of her reptiles. Most of the major types of Australian reptiles are present in this region: 3 dragons, 1 python, 1 side-necked tortoise, 1 marine turtle, 11 front-fanged snakes, 1 legless lizard, 30 skinks and 2 monitors.
Macropods – Kangaroos, Wallabies, Potoroos, Bettongs – are a fascinating group of 71 living (extant) species in Australia, Papua New Guinea and West Papua.
Australia has 51 species of macropod, but few people have ever seen them all. Wouldn’t it be fun to try to see most of them, in the wild?
A mission like that would take you to some of Australia’s most exciting places – Kakadu & Arnhemland for the Black Wallaroo, Mungo for Red & Western Grey Kangaroos, Tasmania for the Tasmanian Pademelon, far north Queensland for the Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo, Croajingolong, Victoria for Red-necked Wallabies and Long-nosed Potoroo, Katherine Northern Territory for Spectacled Hare-wallaby.
That leaves +/-41 species that will be fun to find. Here’s a full checklist of all the Australian Kangaroos & Wallabies. Or you can open it here and download to create your own list (go to file > download as..)
New Guinea (Papua New Guinea & West Papua) has another 20 species – many of which are very difficult to see. If you are interested in that full list, click here:
Please follow Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group on facebook and keep up to date with Australia’s most endangered macropod. There are less than 100 alive, but a recent release to another WA island site is doing well. We might not be able to see them in the wild now, but if they get some help, we might in 10 years!
Tim Bawden is a renowned birder and mammal watcher based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is very generous with his time and knowledge. http://gobirding.com.au/
Jon Hall is an avid bird and mammal watcher, currently based in New York. He is the only one I know of who’s seen almost all the Australian macropods – 48 out of 51 at this time. http://www.mammalwatching.com/
Marc Gardner lives in Katherine, Northern Territory. He passionately follows the birds, mammals and reptiles of that area and has found and monitored rare birds including Gouldian Finches, Yellow-rumped Mannikins and Hooded Parrots. He is very generous with his knowledge.
Its an earthy blend of sweat and dirt. It is tasted with a thick tongue of dehydration, that stays swollen no matter how much water you drink. I can still taste it three hours after the heat has passed.
Its been over 40 for two days now in Melbourne. Extreme heat for most people means a day spent inside with the air-con on full. It means something different to wildlife tour operators, wildlife carers and everyone who works with wild animals.
It means wildlife in distress, and bloody hard work.
Yesterday, Koala Researchers Bart, Harry and Hannah started early before the heat. They were on a mission to find koalas in trees while they were still visible – once it gets over 37C koalas hide on the ground, or in thick vegetation and can be nearly impossible to find. And you can’t help animals you can’t find.
They found Pat and Imvula then Wildlife Guide Michael found Kiki, Kozo and Ngardang. I found an unnamed young male later.
On extreme hot days koalas can overheat and die. Most koalas are already dehydrated due to climate change drying out the eucalyptus leaves which provide them with their ‘drinking water’. A dehydrated koala can’t cool itself. So their poor little heads cook.
We have found a way to cool them down and hydrate them, but they need to be less than 5metres up a tree.
Michael’s observations showed Ngardang low in her tree, so I went straight to her. She is one of our breeding females, so she is very important. She is young and healthy, but she’s just weaned a joey and could be pregnant again or feeding a tiny new pouch joey.
I hoisted the 15kg backpack sprayer on my back and walked in to her.
She was still low, and in a perfect position. But I’ve tried spraying her before, with no luck. She is a very cautious wild koala, and it takes them a while to learn that this new experience is good.
I crept up, very quietly – if I make noise she might move up the tree out of sprayer reach. I set the spray nozzle on mist and starting spraying her so that it hit the branch in front of her, gently. She looked up, but then closed her eyes, enjoying the cool spray.
Over the next ten minutes I sprayed 8 litres of water on her. Her fur was damp, she had licked some off the tree trunk, and she looked much brighter than when I found her. Watch:
Of course, the whole time I was standing in the full sun with a heavy backpack, hand-operating a slide mechanism that takes a bit of strength. I was knackered, and she was just the first of five koalas that day.
Each koala is different. KiKi loved the spray, and made no effort to move away even when it was hitting her hard on her legs and body. At the end she looked like a teddy bear that had fallen into the bath.
Imvula was the worst/best. He was so flat that he barely raised his poor hot head from the ground when he heard me. He took 10 litres of water spray even though he’d never been sprayed before. At the end he climbed up, off the ground into the tree, wet and dripping with life in his beautiful brown eyes.
Every half hour or so I checked the weather site – I knew there was no respite, but you can’t help but hope. The temperature guage just stayed up. Over 40 for six and a half hours in the You Yangs.
Between spraying koalas I filled water in troughs and trays all around the You Yangs. At every water source I disturbed Swamp Wallabies, Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Grey Fantails, Magpies, White-winged Choughs, Brown-headed, Yellow-faced, New Holland and Scarlet Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, Red-browed Finches, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, all drinking from my little trays. They were all open-mouthed and desperate. I hate to disturb them, so I only approach when the water is empty.
The birds don’t sing when its that hot. All you hear is the wind. Its like all life has ceased to be.
Finally, at 6.30pm the temperature started to drop and I went home to 8 hours of sleep, blissful, untroubled sleep.
Then it all started again today.
Our Koala Researchers and Wildlife Guides found Winberry, Clancy, Kiki, Kozo, the unnamed young male again, and Pat and Lluvia.
I went first to Winberry, as he hasn’t been sprayed this season. Wildlife Guide Brett and his tour guests were there too. I showed them what I was about to do, and told them why. Then I sprayed him, and got each of Brett’s guests, one by one, to spray him a little.
After all, tour guests are paying for this.
The tours pay the Koala Researchers and me. Without the tours we wouldn’t be in the You Yangs 310 days a year watching and learning about these koalas so that we can find them on hot days.
Spraying a hot, thirsty koala should not be a spectacle and we are careful not to present it that way. But it is a powerful message about climate change and what its doing to our wildlife. Sometimes, experiencing a thing makes it real.
For years I was terrified of summer. I saw my beloved koalas dying from heat and climate change. I read scientific papers and learned that it would get worse. I worried and had trouble sleeping.
The only cure for worry is action.
It wasn’t easy – it took years of trying different ideas & equipment, many little failures and lots of input from our whole amazing team, and our Koala Clancy Foundation Members. But we’ve finally come up with something that works.
I’m home now, really tired. My tongue is swollen and I can still taste the heat. I know Koala Researchers and Wildlife Guides are feeling the same.
But I will sleep tonight. And nine koalas feel a little bit better.
Fighting is dangerous – even minor fights can lead to injury, and most fights require focus, which distracts the animal from watching out for predators.
Many male animals use body language or bluff to avoid fighting. Male kangaroos use expressive gestures to show other male kangaroos how strong they are, and thus avoid fighting unnecessarily.
Kangaroo bluff display consists of these moves, usually in this order:
Exaggerated pentapedal walking
Kangaroos ‘walk’ by moving their front legs forward, then balancing on their tails for a moment to shift their back legs forward. Its called the pentapedal walk (penta = five, pedal = feet, including the tail). When displaying a male kangaroo will exaggerate this walk by pushing his shoulders and forearms forward, highlighting his muscles. He will arch his back and balance on his tail for longer than normal.
Ball handling and exaggerated grooming
Kangaroos scratch themselves a lot, just as a part of normal grooming. But a male kangaroo avoiding a fight will groom to an extreme degree – its a great way to show nonchalance, but also how pronounced and large their muscles are.
When watching others males display or fight, some male kangaroos will groom their testicles a lot by holding them in their hands and stroking them repeatedly. This doesn’t appear to be masturbation – I haven’t seen it lead to an erection.
During the pentapedal walk, male kangaroos will pause to rub their chest against the ground, by dropping one shoulder to the ground and rubbing back and forth. This spreads their scent and alerts other males to their presence.
Also during a pause in the pentapedal walk, a male kangaroo will grab a tuft of grass in his hand and pull it out and throw it away. This shows off his strength (and probably his arrogance). He will also claw at the ground and throw dust in the air.
This is the most extreme of displays and requires great strength. The kangaroo will raise his body to a normal upright position, then extend on to his tip toes. Its the same thing they do to hop, but more vertical, and held for longer. This position can give a kangaroo an extra 40cm of height.
Only very large, strong kangaroos can maintain high standing for long durations. It is the supreme demonstration of their fitness and strength. A rival male seeing this might avoid fighting if he can’t high-stand for as long.
Kangaroos in the wild are fascinating social animals. Watching male kangaroos avoid fighting is just as interesting as watching kangaroos fight.
Full List of Amphibians of East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
East Gippsland, Victoria has 29 native extant (living) amphibian species. They represent 2 families in 1 order. East Gippsland comprises only 0.3% of Australia’s total area, but is home to nearly 14% of her frogs.
There’s a beautiful rock-wallaby that lives in the crevices at Ubirr, Kakadu. We see them every time we visit, and have pointed them out to many other visitors. Their presence at Ubirr is quite well known – we have spoken to Aboriginal Guides up there who also see them often.
So it came as a surprise to find that this rock-wallaby is a newly-discovered species, that information on their basic behaviour is sparse, and that few images of them exist online.
Luckily, as Wildlife Guides we are in a habit of photographing and documenting most creatures we see. My photos and videos of Wilkins’ Rock-wallaby now form the majority of the gallery on CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia, and the only image of this wallaby on wikipedia. My video of them mating is the only video showing their reproductive behaviour on YouTube.
Observations of wildlife taken on tours can be extremely useful to scientists, land managers and other wildlife enthusiasts. Tour Guides often visit the same sites repeatedly, sometimes on days or at times of day that others avoid. Our sightings are valuable and can really help wildlife, but they are not much good if they stay inside our heads.
But how to do it? Its not hard. Here’s a step by step guide to making your wildlife observations count:
1. Take a photo. Half a second to take a photo, and you have tons of information at your fingertips. The camera usually records a time & date, some even record a GPS location. A photo will often record the habitat too, which can be useful for researchers.
2. Identify the animal. The photo is critical if you can’t identify the animal on the spot. These websites will help with identification:
3. Submit your observation to an online atlas. Its generally best to do this after you’ve identified the species on the sites above.
All Australian animals and plants: Atlas of Living Australia https://www.ala.org.au/This one is great for mammals, reptiles, butterflies and plants. Scientists use it – it has enormous credibility. This site also draws in all the data from eBird, NatureShare, museum collections, all scientific observations, so it is the single go-to source. Only problem is that you have to do each species one by one, so its not convenient for full bird lists.
Birds: eBird http://ebird.org/content/ebird/this one is very well set up for complete bird lists anywhere in the world. You submit all the birds you see in a location in one easy step.
Birds are well known in urban areas, but bird sightings in remote areas are important. Mammals – even the ‘common’ ones – are less well known, particularly in remote areas. Knowledge of Australian reptiles, butterflies & moths, insects and fungi is particularly poor and observations of these can be really helpful.
Animals that are Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened really need our help. Even animals that we think of as common are sometimes facing threats, and their future is really in the balance. For instance the Lace Monitor (Goanna) is now listed as Endangered, and the Grey-headed Flying-fox is Vulnerable – sightings of these animals are really important.
Mallacoota in far East Gippsland is Victoria’s most diverse region for plants, especially flowering plants. Where there are flowers, there are honeyeater birds: a group of noisy, colourful Australian birds adapted to feeding on flower nectar.
In the Mallacoota region it is possible to see 21 species of honeyeater.
Most of the common Victorian species are here: Red & Little Wattlebird, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland & Yellow-faced Honeyeater; but there are also special ones: Tawny-crowned, Crescent, Lewin’s Honeyeater; some are summer visitors: Scarlet Honeyeater; and some are real rarities from NSW and Qld: Noisy and Little Friarbird, White-cheeked Honeyeater.
The Mallacoota region has hills and mountains, coast and heathlands, estuaries and rivers, rainforests and dry woodland, each home to a different group of honeyeater birds.
Here’s a list and description of all the honeyeaters recorded in recent years around Mallacoota.
Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris
Description: small, colourful honeyeater with long curved beak.
Where to see: Can be seen almost anywhere in Mallacoota region where native trees or shrubs or garden plants are flowering.
Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata
Description: Large, streaky grey honeyeater with yellow patch on belly. Very noisy.
Where to see: can be seen almost everywhere in Mallacoota including gardens, all year round
Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera
Description: Similar to Red Wattlebird but lacks yellow patch. Very noisy.
Where to see: Mostly near the coast, all around the region.
White-fronted Chat Epthianura albifrons
Description: a small black and white bird that is most often seen on or near the ground in open areas. Chats are considered honeyeaters, but they are quite different to the rest of the group, both in shape and habits.
Where to see: Not common, best chance is near the coast in open areas – Bastion Point, Mallacoota airport.
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater Gliciphila melanops
Description: an elegant brown, tan and white honeyeater with curved long beak. They are not easy to see, they often stay low and quiet in thick heath.
The Mallacoota region is one of the best places to see this bird in all of Australia.
Where to see: Mostly along the coast in heathlands south of Mallacoota – Shipwreck Ck, Mallacoota airport.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops
Description: A small green-olive honeyeater with yellow patch on face.
Where to see: Almost everywhere around Mallacoota region in forests and gardens. Possibly the most common small honeyeater in region.
Fuscous Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus
Description: a small, yellow-olive honeyeater a bit like the Yellow-faced but lacking the large yellow patch.
Where to see: Not often seen in region, they seem to prefer drier forests. One reported on north side of Inlet in 2013, another found north of Wangarabell in 2012, another in Mallacoota in 2010 (source: Birdata)
White-eared Honeyeater Lichenostomus leucotis
Description: Medium-sized dark green and black honeyeater with white patch on face
Where to see: in forests – Wallagaraugh, Mallacoota (Shady Gully, Casuarina Walk), Genoa Falls.
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops
Description: a beautiful yellow and black, medium-sized honeyeater with dramatic facial markings.
Where to see: in forests, mostly in the hills – Wangarabell, Genoa Falls, Maramingo.
Description: a small green-yellow honeyeater with a white plume on cheek.
Where to see: Not often seen this far east, more a bird of western Victoria, but some recent records at Genoa Peak and Shipwreck Ck.
Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
Description: a medium-sized miner, grey with yellow and black markings around the face. Miners are a group within the honeyeaters – they are chunky-bodied, have bare skin behind their eyes and quite short beaks. They are not related to the introduced Common (Indian) Myna, though they look a bit similar.
Where to see: Occasionally recorded in Mallacoota town area.
Bell Miner (Bellbird) Manorina melanophrys
Description: a small miner, green-olive with red patch behind eye and bright gold beak. Their bell-like call is well-known and much loved.
Where to see: Common, heard in almost every rainforest or wet forest. They can be hard to see at first, simply because they are hidden in thick foliage, but with patience you can usually see one.
Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii
Description: a beautiful, medium-sized green-olive honeyeater with yellow crescent on the cheek. Their call is very distinctive – a bit like a machine gun.
Where to see: Common, often in slightly wetter forests but also along the coast.
Brown-headed Honeyeater Melithreptus brevirostris
Description: a small brown, olive and white honeyeater.
Where to see: Scattered records throughout region, often in dry forests, high in canopy.
White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus
Description: small, green and white honeyeater with a black head and a red eyebrow.
Where to see: Common in most forest types – usually seen high in canopy.
Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta
Description: a small red, black and white honeyeater with a curved beak.
This bird is one of the reasons birdwatchers come to Mallacoota – these tiny birds fly down from the north in Spring and East Gippsland is their first stop in Victoria. Sometimes they spread throughout the state (as they are doing this year – 2017), but Mallacoota is always a reliable site to see Scarlet Honeyeaters in Spring and Summer.
Where to see: They are usually seen along the coastal forests – Shipwreck Ck, Betka Beach, Heathland Walk – but also up Genoa and Wallagaraugh Rivers at Gipsy Point, Wallagaraugh.
Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis
Description: a medium-sized light grey friarbird with blue skin around face. Friarbirds are a group among the honeyeaters that are large, noisy and usually have bare, unfeathered heads – the Little Friarbird doesn’t have a totally bare head, but does have a lot of bare skin.
Where to see: one seen in 2014 at Gipsy Point (source: eBird)
Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus
Description: a large light grey friarbird with a bare black head like a tiny vulture.
Where to see: Not common, but several recent sightings from Karbeethong, Gipsy Point, Mallacoota, Wallagaraugh
White-cheeked Honeyeater Phylidonyris nigra
Description: a medium-sized black, white and yellow honeyeater, very similar to the common New Holland Honeyeater, but does not have the white eye.
Where to see: This bird is mostly found in NSW and Qld, but there are two records from Cape Howe Wilderness north of inlet in 2014
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
Description: a medium-sized black, white and yellow honeyeater with a streaky breast and white eye.
Where to see: Common in gardens and forests all around Mallacoota region.
Crescent Honeyeater Phylidonyris pyrrhoptera
Description: a medium-sized black, white and yellow honeyeater with two black bars forming a broken crescent on chest
Where to see: Can be seen all over Mallacoota region in forests, but do not seem to be as common this year (2017). They do have a tendency to come down to coast in winter and go up to the mountains in summer. Recent records from Genoa Peak and Shipwreck Creek.