Billy bunny

There is a new resident here at 569. When we first saw him, we assumed he was just passing through but it seems he has made a home here, safe under a spreading grevillea.

1.Billy

Up early in the morning, he starts his day with a wash.

When he saw me watching, he tried to make himself small and thought about retreating.

Deciding I wasn’t a threat, he happily went about his grazing.

9.Phew, that was close

I assume he will leave soon to start a family of his own. Until then, I have named him Billy.

16.Billy

Lillico Beach

There is one of those, “I must go there one day” places along the Bass Highway between Ulverstone and Devonport. I am ashamed to say it took me eight years in Tasmania before I pulled off the highway to explore Lillico Beach Conservation Area. The reserve is home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins, aptly named the Little Penguin or Fairy Penguin. I entered the walkway and immediately spotted little concrete shelters scattered through the vegetation.

1.penguin burrow2.penguin burrow

The artificial burrows are used when there is a lack of natural burrow habitat and offer protection from predators such as feral cats.

3.penguin burrows

I wandered along the viewing platform, distracted by the spectacular panorama of Bass Strait at low tide.

4.looking west5.looking north6.looking east

The burrow designs are quite innovative and seem perfectly sized for a penguin who is only 30cm high and weighs around one kilogram.

7.penguin burrow

This important wildlife corridor hugs the coast for 2.5kms,

8.Bass Strait

the shingle beach and rock pools make for stunning scenery.

9.on the beach

If I were living at Lillico Beach, this would be my choice of home,

10.penguin burrow

if only for the location.

11.penguin burrow

There were no penguins to be seen on this day, they were all out fishing in the beautiful blue ocean. We will visit one summer evening to watch them waddling back to their burrows. I won’t wait another eight years.

Taronga Zoo

On a warm December day in Sydney, we caught the ferry from Circular Quay to spend the day at Taronga Zoo. Officially opened in 1916, the zoo was based on the bar-less exhibits seen at Hamburg Zoo on a visit to Germany by the Secretary of the zoo in 1908. The 69 acre site is home to over 4,000 animals of 350 species and is a wonderful place to spend a leisurely day. The first animal we encountered was the gorgeous red panda. The deep rust-red colour contrasts beautifully with cream facial markings, the large claws a bonus when it comes to tree climbing.

These two were enjoying a nap in the humid heat, dreaming of their ancestors in south-east Asia. Binturongs have been described as a bear-cat and as tree dwellers with long bushy tails, it’s hard to believe they are distantly related to meerkats. Apparently, they have a strong odour of a cross between burnt popcorn and corn chips. We didn’t get close enough to find out.

The Java Finch seemed to be enjoying the steamy atmosphere in the waterbird exhibit.

Usually a white bird, the Cattle Egret is seen on the backs of cattle making a meal of ticks and flies. The orange brown breeding plumage becomes bright red at the height of the season. Interestingly, a group of egrets is known as a “skewer”.

9.cattle egret

The smallest known ibis in Australia, the Glossy Ibis was showing the magnificent colours of breeding plumage.

10.glossy ibis

The Asian elephant breeding program has been very successful at Taronga. The keepers led them out for their daily exercise, giving them wooden “toys” to play with.

11.Asian elephants

15.Asian elephants

The Sumatran Tiger and Snow Leopard were on alert

16.Sumatran Tiger17.Snow Leopard

but there were others who had given in to the somnolent, steamy atmosphere.

18.lioness19.bear20.tapir

I have always had a soft spot for hippos and the baby pygmy hippo stole my heart.

The meerkats were entertaining, as usual, I could watch them for hours. The dark patches around their eyes act as sunglasses to lessen the glare of the desert.

Mum and baby gorilla were enjoying a nap, dad doesn’t look too impressed at being left out.

We passed the colourful cassowary and opulent ostrich

on the way to the giraffes. The meal didn’t look very appetizing but he was tall enough to catch glimpses of the Harbour Bridge.

The world’s largest lizard at 3 metres long, the Komoda Dragon was magnificent.

38.Komodo Dragon

Unfortunately, Tuka, as he was named, died two years ago at the age of 33.

There were many fascinating lizards and snakes, I won’t even attempt to identify them.

The Indian Star tortoise was heading for lunch

50.Indian star tortoise

while the eastern snake-necked turtle cooled off in the pool.

51.Eastern snake-necked turtle

The handsome countenance of the Rhinoceros Iguana reveals the sheer pleasure of basking in the sunshine.

There was a fabulous view from the Sky Safari cable car. The lush verdancy  below

contrasted perfectly with the harbour and city beyond.

58.gondola view

Watching the chimpanzees brought us back to earth. It’s not hard to believe they are our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99% of our DNA.

Nearing the end of our visit, we stopped by the farmyard where children can get close to the animals. The piglets were adorable

and the acrobatic goat had us wondering how she would get down from there.

68.goat

We enjoyed every minute of our day at Taronga, and with a final hint from the crocodile on how to stay cool,

69.crocodile

we returned to our apartment to do just that.

70.cooling off

mellow monotreme

We rarely see echidnas in the wild and were very excited when, travelling back from lunch at a friend’s house, we spotted one foraging in the grass.

1.echidna

Echidnas are fascinating creatures. Along with the platypus, they belong to the order of monotremes, the only living mammals that lay eggs. Evolving between 20 and 50 million years ago, their ancestors were aquatic before echidnas adapted to life on land.

2.echidna

The cream coloured spines, around 50mm in length, are actually modified hairs. The fur between the spines provides insulation and ranges in colour from honey to dark reddish-brown and even black.

3.echidna

Long-beaked echidnas are only found in New Guinea, we have the short-beaked variety here in Australia. The Tasmanian ones are larger than those on the mainland and their fur is thicker and longer, concealing most of the spines.

4.echidna

Their diet is mainly ants and termites but the echidna is also partial to grubs, larvae and worms.

5.echidna

The pointy snout is an amazing appendage. Not only can it sense the smell of its prey, it detects the electrical impulses from the insect’s bodies. Then, the long, sharp claws on strong forepaws are used to dig into the soil or open up ant’s nests, followed by the devoration of a meal with a sticky, 15cm tongue. They have no teeth, but grind their tasty morsels with horny pads in their mouths and on the back of their tongues.

6.echidna

Breeding season is between June and September. A single egg is laid into the backward facing pouch where it hatches after 10 days. Echidnas don’t have nipples, they secrete milk through two patches on the skin from which the young suckle. Around 3 months of age, the puggle (such a cute name for the baby echidna) leaves the pouch or rather, mother ejects it due to the growth of the spines. Mum leaves the puggle while she goes off to forage and returns every 5 days to suckle it, until it is weaned at 6 months of age. She then leaves it to fend for itself, never to return.

7.echidna

Echidnas do have natural predators, despite their spines, such as eagles and Tasmanian Devils. They were a favourite food of the early settlers and Aboriginal people. Fortunately, even though they are not considered endangered, they are now protected by law. After posing for a few photos, we left him (or her) to enjoy afternoon tea.

8.echidna

Hadrian’s Wall

Leaving the beauty of Wales behind, we drove through the Lake District, stopping at Windermere to buy supplies.

1-windermere

The weather was not conducive to sightseeing

2-windermere

so we were soon on our way to Carlisle for a two night stay at New Pallyards Farm. The next day, we set off to discover Hadrian’s Wall. Built from 122AD, it was the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire until early in the 5th century. There were many forts along the 80 miles between the Irish Sea and North Sea

3-hadrians-lookout

and the lookout at Greenhead rewarded with spectacular views across the countryside.

The section of wall at Walltown Crags was impressive

6-hadrians-wallwalltown-crags

as it snaked its way along Whin Sill

7-hadrians-wall-walltown-crags

a spectacular rock formation formed millions of years ago.

8-hadrians-wall-walltown-crags

The view down to the car park and the landscape beyond was stunning.

9-hadrians-wall-walltown-crags

We drove on to Housesteads Fort and climbed the hill

10-housesteads-fort

to the Visitor’s Centre.

11-visitor-centre-housesteads-fort

Originally named Vercovicium, meaning ‘the place of the effective fighters’, Housesteads is the most complete Roman fort in Britain.

12-housesteads-fort

The foundations include a hospital, barracks, granaries

and even flushable toilets.

20-latrines-housesteads-fort

From the ridge, the most preserved part of the wall disappears into the distance

21-hadrians-wall

and the remains of a gate can be seen.

22-hadrians-wall

The panorama across Northumberland National Park was magnificent

23-northumberland-national-park

and the locals seemed very contented.

24-local-inhabitant

We continued our drive to Newcastle,

25-newcastle

eager for a drop of the namesake brown ale. We were so disappointed to learn they don’t serve Newcastle Brown Ale on tap in Newcastle! We chose another brew and enjoyed a delicious lunch overlooking Tynemouth Bay

26-tynemouth-castle-priory

and the majestic 13th century Castle & Priory.

27-tynemouth-castle-priory

Unfortunately, the ruins were closed to visitors for the season so we returned to our cottage in Carlisle for another cosy night.