Having been in Australia for over 5 months it was about time we had some visitors, luckily for us, my girlfriend's parents came for a holiday. We decided we should show them around some of the areas we already knew in norther New South Wales and southern Queensland. We started off in our old haunt of Byron Bay, showing them the area's amazing national parks and even the marine park. We were very lucky to see turtles and a whole host of other species but as I don't specialise in underwater photography, you'll just have to take my word for it.
I did manage to take a few photos of the shore-based wildlife ...
From Byron we headed northwards, stopping for an afternoon at the Daisy Hill park which is famed for its Koalas, we didn't see any Koalas but we did some some lovely Red-necked Wallabies.
Our main destination for this mini holiday was Fraser Island which is famed for its population of Dingoes. These wild dogs are thought to be the purest left in all of Australia, due to their isolation. We saw one within only 30 minutes of our arrival on the island but as I was driving I didn't manage to get an image. Thinking we would see plenty more I was a little nervous after two full days without any further sightings.
On the evening of our third day on the island, I went for a sunset walk and I was treated to a real spectacle. The sunset was stunning ... but as I was waiting for the light to turn that incredible golden colour I felt like I was being watched.
The next day was our last on Fraser Island, we went out in search of the Dingoes first thing but had no luck. Was that to be the last encounter with these beautiful dogs?
Well as it turns out, no ... we went to stop for lunch at a campsite and picnic ground we were surrounded. There were two adults and two rather large pups, all seeing what they could scavenge. Of course we made sure not to leave any food behind for the Dingoes, hoping that others did the same.
Photographing birds is a speciality within the field of wildlife photography and it is a discipline which I am by no means an expert in. I specialise in photographing mammals, and that is what my equipment is focused towards, but every now and then I dabble in photographing our feathered friends. With a 300mm lens photographing any species of bird can be a challenge but sometimes it is important to broaden your horizons and go out of your comfort zone. So in Beachmere, Queensland I did just that.
Rainbow Lorikeets are one of the most colourful and common birds throughout Australia, they make superb photography subjects and I did my best to do them justice. Here are just a couple of images from lorikeets around the house we were staying in ...
It wasn't just the lorikeets that made great subjects around the area there always Blue-faced Honeyeaters around too. There was also a number of pairs of the superbly named, Willie Wagtail. These charismatic little birds were tricky to photograph due to their small stature and speedy movements.
Australian Pelicans are the giants of the sky around Beachmere, with their powerful long wings they cruise overhead or skim across the water before settling and searching for the fish they feed on. They are incredibly accomplished on the water too, more than happy to move silently across the water with their submerged feet paddling away.
Wading birds are incredibly common across Moreton Bay, which Beachmere is central to. Eastern Curlews are fabulous but incredibly shy and with a 300mm lens I sadly wasn't able to photograph them. However Masked Lapwings and Bar-tailed Godwit were also common and a little easier to approach. It wasn't until the last day that I cracked the technique to photograph them at so close distances so I only managed a few shots as the tide receded.
Lastly, and for me most spectacularly, I had incredibly close encounter. Sitting in the house one day I received a shout from my girlfriend that a large bird flew over her, she had been sunbathing on the beach at the bottom of the garden. I rushed out with my camera to see if I could spot whatever it was that had flown over. At first, it seemed as if the vast mudflats were empty, there was nothing in sight. After a minute or two I decided to head back in to the house, retreating from the blistering Australian sun, but at that moment I noticed a brown shape moving on one of the exposed pieces of mud. Looking through my lens, I instantly realised I had been too hasty and my girlfriend was right. I knew it was a bird of prey but without my binoculars I couldn't tell what. There was only one thing for it, to start crawling through the mud and the shallow pools and get closer.
As I got down to the high tide mark, I noticed that the bird was standing atop of an object but it was too far away to see what it was. I kept on shuffling closer, ever closer until I was within perhaps 25 metres. I thought that the bird must leave the mud as I started to make my way through a pool of water. It continued to feed, seemingly unconcerned by my presence with just the occasional glance in my direction. It seemed to realise I meant it no harm, and with my low profile I can't have looked much like a person. It was now that I could see it in incredibly clarity, the setting sun had turned the bird's plumage a beautiful golden-brown and the eyes positively glowed. It was a magical experience, an encounter with a raptor like no other I had ever had. I spent over an hour watching and photographing, all the while the bird was completely relaxed. It was only when the food item had been stripped clean (seemingly a bone that had been left high and dry with the falling tide) that it flew off down the beach. What was it I hear you ask ... a Whistling Kite of course!
Urban kangaroos, possibly my favourite subject to photograph in all of Australia, so far at least. Well, I might have become a little addicted, scratch that ... I am definitely addicted. There is nothing really in the world that compares to the kangaroos and the wallabies of Australasia, with their deer-like head, long muscular tail and their incredibly energy efficient motion. For me though, they are characterful and just utterly beautiful ... i don't needy any excuses to just keep photographing them.
All the images above were taken on one glorious evening, I was alone with the kangaroos and the lighting couldn't have been better. I went back the next day and had further luck ...
The female with the joey in her pouch was particularly obliging, you just can't describe how wonderful it is to be so close to these animals. Another fantastic evening with these charismatic marsupials and I have a feeling there might be another few to come before I leave the area.
Australia is rightly famed for its unique wildlife, the most iconic of these has got to be the kangaroo. On the Pacific coast, the species of kangaroo you will encounter is the Eastern Grey, this is a large mammal and one that you need to respect. Sadly, more often than not there seems to be some sort of conflict with the growing population and expanding towns and cities. This is certainly the case in the small towns to the north of Brisbane, both the small towns of Beachmere and Toorbul are home to Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
Beachmere is undergoing a new phase of development with large swathes of swampy bushland being drained and turned into now housing estates. It seems that there has been little evaluation of the environmental impacts and I came across a group of Kangaroos still trying to forage on a vast construction site.
Toorbul is a slightly different proposition to Beachmere, there seems to be little new development here but there is plenty of established housing. Here the kangaroos have made their homes among the parks and gardens of the local community and have little fear of people. It seems to be quite a harmonious situation but perhaps it isn't all as it quite seems. After an hour or so an absolute idiot came towards the small group of kangaroos on a mini motorbike and drove straight at them. All the kangaroos panicked with one poor youngster, who you can see in the portraits towards the bottom of this post, falling over right in front of me and desperately scrabbling to try and avoid the bike. It was horrific to see and really showed me the worst in humanity, the individual paused beforehand and purposefully accelerated towards them, seemingly proud of his vile act.
It was then that I decided to leave this group alone so not to stress them out any further than their ordeal with one selfish and bizarre individual.
Here is the poor young kangaroo that panicked as the motorcyclist approached, thankfully it was very calm and relaxed beforehand when I was watching it.
After the amazing sightings of Platypus in Eungella NP, we headed further inland hoping to visit Carnarvon Gorge. We first stopped off in the gemfields and stayed in the small community of Sapphire, where I got up close and personal to an amazing Oscillated Velvet Gecko which was searching for a meal in the extraordinary heat.
After this short stop we continued southwards to the amazing Carnarvon Gorge but sadly it didn't go quite as we had planned. We were hoping to stay there for 4 nights, that way we could make the most of this amazing destination. Unforunately, after only 1 night we had to leave, a large rainstorm was forecast and we could be cut off for a couple of weeks. We got to spend one afternoon enjoying the local wildlife though and it was great from a photographic point of view. With close encounters of both Swamp Wallabies and Eastern Grey Kangaroos the highlight.
As the sun started to set a Kookaburra appeared in the trees above me and started to laugh until the light was no more. I took a single silhouette as my final image of the day.
So after a frog bonanza in Queensland, we spent 3 weeks travelling back down south towards the northern areas of New South Wales. Along the way we came across a wide range of Australian critters ... and to make a nice change, even a few mammals. Including one that I have wanted to see in the wild for as long as I can remember, the incredibly elusive Platypus.
We visited Eungella National Park in tropical Queensland, where we had heard there was a relatively good chance of seeing these unique and intriguing mammals. As you may or not be aware, the Platypus is only one of two monotremes that still exist on earth today. The classification for a monotreme is that they are an egg laying mammal, the other species which features in this unusual family is the Echidna. The Platypus is even more bizarre than just the fact that it lays egss, it also leaks milk through its skin and even has poisonous spurs on its hind legs.
Anyway ... here are the results of this little expedition
As you can see from the two very different styles of image above, I had two separate sightings. In fact, we had 3 separate sightings of at least 5 individuals. Our first sighting was as the evening light was fading and we were waiting above a beautiful isolated pool, within twenty minutes we saw a splash and a bow wave ripple on the water. It was my first ever moment watching a wild Platypus and something that will remain with me for a very long time, it was magical. We re-positioned ourselves and waited , hoping that we would get an even closer encounter.
On the second day we went back but not until later in the morning. Platypus are primarily crepuscular and it is very unusual to see them during the heat of the day. However, we were in luck, the second two images are both taken at 11 am and was swimming within 5 metres of us. It was such a magical experience and one I will never forget.
So we have spent the last few weeks up in the tropical part of Queensland, hot sun, rain and frogs were the recurring theme. Some people hate frogs and some are even afraid of them but I absolutely love them, especially tree frogs, and went out almost every evening in search of some amphibian friends.
To say I got lucky would be an an understatement. It was utterly mind blowing! There was the world's largest species of tree frog, the White-lipped Tree Frog that really would fill your entire hand, as well as the tiny little Red-eyed Tree Frog which are indescribably beautiful and rather petite compared to their larger cousins. Anyway, I had an absolutely amazing time with the frogs and the following images were captured over the space of a few weeks.
We have already encountered the Green Tree Frog further south near to Byron Bay but they are still amazing subjects and they always look like they are smiling. In my books, any animal that looks as if it is smiling is instantly a favourite.
At first glance the Dainty and the Red-eyed Tree Frogs look very similar but their calls are noticeably different. Once you get close enough with a torch you quickly realise they have quite different features and own distinct habits. They are much more aware of you when photographing them and only relax again once you move further away.
The Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog really is utterly tiny, at first you think it must be a new born. To give you an idea of its miniature stature, the tadpoles are actually bigger then some of the adult frogs. The image below gives you an idea of just how tiny they are, resting on my girlfriend's finger tip (this individual was being rescued from the swimming pool).
I will update you all with some amazing mammal pictures soon, including one that I have always wanted to see, a really weird and unique species.
I would also just like to say a massive thank you to Canon Professional Services, Australia! My Canon 5D mkIII had a complete power unit failure and I was stuck without a camera but CPS came to my rescue and lent me a 1DX for the Christmas period. Without this camera I would not have been able to capture any of the images you see above. This just underlines why I use Canon equipment, the service is out of this world.