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.
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. Read and watch how kangaroos fight here.
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.
A great wildlife experience is not about seeing animals. It is about understanding animals.
I love wildlife. Wild animals are my number one reason for living, and my main reason to travel. But seeing wildlife is only part of the experience.
Its the people who care for wildlife that make the experience.
In Africa in 2016 the rains had failed. At Klaserie, part of Greater Kruger in South Africa with our main Wildlife Guide Martin and our local Guide Enoch, we came upon a herd of magnificent, huge Cape Buffalo grazing beside the track.
They were calm and placid, and seemed happy to graze within metres of us.
After a few minutes of photography, Enoch and Martin started telling us about the condition of the buffalo we were looking at. They were skinny, their hair patchy, and had many ticks.
With a great softness Enoch said “I feel sad for these buffalo.”
Martin then said, also with deep sadness “About half of these buffalo will not survive this summer.”
I looked at them differently from that moment. Where I previously saw an interesting animal, I now saw pride and courage. I saw hurt, and determination. I saw each buffalo as an individual, and I silently wished them luck.
I have never forgotten those Buffalo.
On another trip to Savuti in 2014 we witnessed one of the most magical sights in Africa. On our second day we drove out onto the marsh with Martin and our local guide Izzy. The rains had been kind that year, and brought water to Savuti after many barren years.
With excitement in his voice, Martin pointed out a dark smudge on the horizon. It was like a low cloud, or smoke – dark grey and thick and stretching for miles.
“The buffalo have come back” he said, grinning.
The cloud approached slowly, but we watched it all the way. Thousands upon thousands of Cape Buffalo, plodding slowly, grazing as they came. In time the herd filled our view from horizon to horizon.
Buffalo only live on the Savuti Marsh when there is sufficient water to sustain them. They need to drink every day. It had been many, many years since they had been here. Knowing this from our Guides, we appreciated it fully – I think we sat in that open vehicle watching them for an hour.
I have never forgotten those buffalo, because a great Wildlife Guide helped me to understand them.
Both times, if I was without a Guide I might have seen a herd of animals. With a Wildlife Guide I understood the animals.
There is a big difference – seeing is momentary. Understanding is forever.
Note from the author: I am a professional Wildlife Guide in Australia. I work with koalas & kangaroos, wombats and the birds of the south-east and with those species I don’t need a guide – I am the guide. My powers of observation, my general understanding of animals are pretty good. But outside of my region, and the species I know, I always try to travel with a Wildlife Guide. It is just better. There’s no way I could know enough about the animals of another country, or even another region of my own country – not ever, no matter how much I read and research before I go.
If you love animals do yourself a favour – get a great Wildlife Guide.
Full List of Mammals of East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
East Gippsland, Victoria has 72 native extant (living) mammal species. They represent 26 families in 8 orders. East Gippsland comprises only 0.3% of Australia’s total land area, but is home to over20% of her native mammals. Most of the major types of Australian mammals are present in this region: 2 of the 2 monotreme families; 11 of the 17 living marsupial families; 5 of the 8 bat families; 1 of the 1 family of native rodents and 7 of the 10 families of marine mammals.
Aussies grow up in a subtle, beautiful land. Our animals are soft, grey and gentle, our forests are elegant and ancient. Australia can be harsh, but she will wear you down rather than beat you up.
Africa is a land of huge, wrinkly monsters , thorny straggly forests, and golden predators who pounce on weakness and punish mistakes with brutal death. Africa is passion and testosterone, excitement and living for the moment.
But we are continents from the same family. We share wide blue skies, and sun; golden grasslands dotted with herbivores; low but dramatic mountain ranges; sandy and stony deserts and The Bush, filled with wild and crazy birdsong.
Africa is our chest-thumping, irreverent, lovable brother.
With our brother Africa we share the world’s largest wilderness: the Southern Ocean. We share the Southern Cross in the night sky. We share Baobab/Boab trees, acacias and the protea family of wildflowers.
Like us, Africans see beauty in a desert. We love the feel of dust on our tongue. We love camping, and sharing a campfire after dinner.
On our first trip to Africa we camped in the Kalahari in Botswana. Kori Bustards and Ostriches walked across the creamy-coloured sand, and tiny Steenbok hid in the scratchy shrubs. In the midday heat big animals were only found near the waterholes. Early morning and near dusk more animals came out – Porcupine, Bat-eared Foxes, Honey Badger, Hyenas, Lions.
It was so like Australia that we kept forgetting not to walk off alone and sit under a tree. Our patient Guide Martin reminded us repeatedly, dropping hints about Leopards hiding in the branches.
Later in the trip we sat in the dark in an open vehicle while a herd of Elephants splashed in the Okavango Delta next to us. We were so close we could hear them breathing…… and farting.