14 August 2012

219. Seeing animals in metropolitan Melbourne

As a foreigner in Melbourne one of my first questions to my local pals was where I could see typical Aussie animals. The answer was 'The Zoo', which just doesn't cut it.

Well, it would've helped if I had asked the more outdoorsy types, because you can actually be fairly sure to catch glimpses of kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, corellas, rosellas, cockatoos and kookaburras without having to travel too far. This is biased towards the eastern suburbs, since that's where I roam.

I (almost) always see...

Kangaroos: As it turns out,  the most iconic animal of Australia is very easy to find around Melbourne. Sure, it's Grey Kangaroo and not the perhaps more famous Red Kangaroo, but they are everywhere if you know where to look, and in many places they are used to humans.
This is one kangaroo that isn't bothered by human presence. Lysterfield Lake Park on Tramline track.

On the best places is along Tram Line Track in Lysterfield Lake Park:
Lysterfield Lake Park

Tram line track is where the action's at

The walking's easy for the most part. Some of the tracks get soggy and muddy due to bikes and horses ruining them.

For the most part, the park's flat.
If you go on the smaller trails and keep quiet you may spot the odd Swamp Wallaby -- they are much smaller, solitary and tend to leg it whenever they see humans. Apart from their difference in size and fuzzier fur, you can recognise them by 1. they are (almost) always alone, 2. their tail is white-tipped and 3. their stance when hopping is different from that of kangaroos (lean forward more).

Other safe places to spot kangaroos would be Churchill national park, the area around Police Paddocks, and Cardinia Lake Park -- but Cardinia Reservoir Park tends to get really busy with people playing games and bbq:ing which tends to ruin the experience.

 Lysterfield Park north of Wellington road also has a lot of Kangaroos, but they aren't always easy to spot.

Wallabies: The Swamp Wallaby is quite common around Melbourne, but is much more shy than Kangaroos. It's also solitary -- if you spot a kangaroo you know that there are others around, but not so with wallabies.
The picture is heavily overexposed to show the wallaby hiding in the shade off of Possum Gully track in Cranbourne

The best place to spot wallabies seems to be the park surrounding the Botanical Park in Cranbourne. If you're quiet and attentive you will spot Wallabies in the sandier parts of the park before they run away. If you bring binoculars you're like to see wallabies hiding in the stands of ferns abutting the forests or in the middle of the fields. Again, they take a bit more patience to spot.

Cranbourne Botanic Gardens

Sometimes you can spot Wallabies among the fern in the more open part of the park

Otherwise, carefully walk on the sandier tracks among the scrub -- and be aware that any wallaby that sees you will either leg it, or stand absolutely still in the shade. So you need keen eyes.

I've seen wallabies up by Lysterfield Lake Park every time I go there, but you'll have to find the smaller tracks/breaks to spot them.

Crimson Rosellas: This is a typical forest parrot. Dandenong Ranges is a great place to see them, and because of their crimson red colour they aren't that difficult to spot. The young are green and tend to form flocks towards the end of summer. You sometimes see a single green young and its two parents as well earlier in the summer.
Just outside Churchill national park

The best places to spot them  is in shaded and wooded areas right at the edge of the woods. Rock track next to the golf course outside Olinda tends to be good, but in general, these birds are fairly common in the area. Typically you'd see a pair, but the young do flock at times.

A flock of crimson rosellas

Rock track

The lookout on Chalet road is a good place to park your car and start walking.

Another safe place is Grant's Picnic Ground north of Belgrave. There's an area where you can feed the parrots, and it's mostly cockatoos and rosellas. Just be warned -- they bring in bus-loads of tourists, so if you're looking for a 'wild' experience it can be a bit disappointing. The parrots are wild and free alright, but they are certainly used to the presence of humans.

Grant's picnic ground. It has some nice tracks as well.

There's a visitor centre where you can buy birdseed.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos:
A cockatoo grazing on a football field in the morning sun

Apart from Grant's Picnic Ground (see Crimson Rosellas) where you are more or less guaranteed to find them, the area around Shepherd's bush in the Dandenong Valley area is pretty good. It also has the advantage of being easy to get to.

Eastern Rosellas: Probably the prettiest parrot I've seen. It's not always that easy to find, but it tends to be in more open areas than the Crimson Rosella. Also, it tend to forage on the ground. Normally, using your ears is the way to know where to look Rosellas have a much more melodic call than the other parrots and are easy to distinguish based on that alone.
They are small and fairly shy. The red head gives it away though.  Police Paddocks.
The best area so far seems to be Police paddocks just east of Stud Road in the city's far east, where there's a bit of open forest. You're likely to spot Kangaroos there as well.

Southern Brown Bandicoot: 
I've seen them two out of three time when visiting Cranbourne botanic gardens (See Wallabies above). They are normally around the visitor centre and the BBQ area. If you walk into the park you might see them cross the road. Going on the smaller tracks along the fence tends to be rewarding as well. Basically think of them as big rats in terms of what you're looking for -- they are less paranoid than rats, but you should still walk softly.
A large bandicoot over by the playground behind Cranbourne botanic gardens

Rainbow Lorikeets: You see them everywhere in the eastern suburbs. If you want to see them up close, look for e.g. flowering bottle brush and you might get lucky.
A rainbow lorikeet in our garden.
Kookaburras: Kookaburras aren't rare, but can be tricky to locate. The only place which has always  produced consistent sightings is Lysterfield Lake Park -- again on tramline track. Otherwise, the more open patches of forest (mountain ash) up in Dandenong ranges can yield lots of sightings depending on season. If you go along trig track up by the sky high observatory in the Dandong ranges you may spot lots of kookaburras and crimson rosellas. Otherwise, rock track over by Olinda occasionally has the odd kookaburra laughing away.
Laughing kookaburra at Cardinia Reservoir.

I have once seen...

Echidnas: I've seen one on a track in Cardinia Reservoir Park, and one next to the road (alive and digging) in the area surrounding the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens. You're unlikely to spot them. Instead, use your ears -- you'll hear them digging in the grass/leaves.

Normally Echidnas are camera shy, but this guy was happy to pose.

Emu: I've only seem one once, and that was just east of Cardinia Reservoir Park, while driving on Red Hill road. The emu was in the fenced off area belong to Melbourne Water.
A lone emu near Cardinia.

Corellas: from time to time I see lots of them -- they seem to be very common in the area around Monash University, but they aren't always there when I visit. Especially the corner of Blackburn road and Wellington road occasionally has flocks of them.

Little Corellas hanging out in a town along Great Ocean Road.

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