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Healesville Sanctuary is a short drive from the east of Melbourne. Native animals, including many that are endangered, live in close-to-natural surroundings. Tourists and locals, on their way between enclosures that house and protect rare creatures, enjoy walking through bushland alive with the calls of native birds, some of which wander along the paths or hunt insects in the nearby scrub.
The bigger version, which you can drag around by its title bar, should appear when you click a picture. Your next click, on a different picture or anywhere else, will close it.
When Dean saw that Jen was about to take a picture of Alex petting a wallaby, he decided to take a picture of all of them. The picture on the left is the one that Dean took, that on the right was snapped by Jen. What a great portrait!
The wallaby was not in the least interested in anything other than his lettuce and carrots. We thought that he was wearing a distinctly evil expression, so the kids decided to look as evil as possible too. Soon a little tourist came to pat the wallaby. His mother was with him and told us that they came from Korea. I wonder what they thought of our strangely shaped animals!
In the area set aside for kangaroos and wallabies there is a jumping place for humans. Marks along the side of the pit show the length of the jump of different animals. You have to start from a standing position and see which animal you can equal—a poteroo, a pademelon, a rock wallaby? Never a big grey kangaroo! Obby was sorry that they didn't have a length marked out for a hopping mouse, because she was almost sure she could exceed that.
The dingoes were lovely—much fluffier than any we'd seen in other places. A touch of canis familiarus, perhaps? They seemed to spend most of their time sleeping, but began to perk up around teatime, and when their keeper arrived it was a typical happy dog scene: wagging tails and scratchings at the gate.
Emus are big, and used to be quite intimidating back in the days when visitors were allowed to feed them. A bag of crisps or peanuts open in the hand was an invitation to robbery. It was fun to feed them a piece of apple and watch the muscles contracting all the way down that long neck, though.
Several times each day, visitors are invited to sit around an area where hawks, kites and eagles demonstrate their skills. Handlers each wear a thick leather glove, and probably have some sort of padding over their shoulders as well, since the birds often perch there, and those talons look serious. We tried so hard to take a picture of food being caught in mid-air, but they were so fast.
Because emu eggs form part of the natural diet of the black breasted buzzard, the sanctuary provides artificial eggs, just as hard-shelled as the real thing, and with a morsel of food hidden inside. Confronted with one of these, the bird will pick up a stone and drop it hard on the egg to break the shell.
The tawny frogmouth is strictly nocturnal, and during the day sits dead still on a branch or fence post, where it really does look like just another piece of wood. My dad told me that you could walk up to a sleeping frogmouth and touch him, even give him a push, and he'd still maintain his calm and stillness. Jen caught a grandfather pointing this strange bird out to a little boy. The little boy seemed to feel a bit doubtful, though.
One of the only two egg-laying mammals in the world (the other is the platypus) the echidna is comical and incomprehensible. Toddling slowly, snuffling under bark for food items often too disgusting to be thought about, it seems quite unaware of people craning their necks to see it. When frightened or unwell, the echidna tucks his nose against his tummy and rolls into a tight, prickle-covered ball.
Jen was obliged to fit the lens of her camera into the strong mesh that protects the sides of the echidna enclosure from falling objects. Getting a clear picture was still a challenge; the echidna's colouring is beautifully matched to that of his surroundings.
These big lizards were called "goannas" by early English settlers, probably because they reminded them of the iguana. I've seen one about a metre and a half long, clinging to a tree trunk and edging around behind it every time the would-be photographer changed his position. That one was very handsome; black with yellow markings. The fellow at Healesville is much less colourful, but will probably look brighter and fresher after shedding his skin.
When Jen took these pictures of the egret on its nest we quite forgot that we were inside a cage with the bird. We were standing on a wooden bridge that spanned a creek, and the egret's tree was many metres away and very high. The nest seemed to be made of sticks rather untidily bundled together.
This very pretty bird seemed quite unconcerned about our watching him, even though his mate was just across the path behind us, sitting in a nest that had been built inside the top of a broken branch. Books say that these insectiverous birds travel in flocks, but we saw only the one pair. The environment provided for them was very nice for us, too.
Alex told us, with a grin, that this bird was a swamfen. OK. It looked very similar to a dusky moorhen, but, of course, it was swimming. We saw one pair with four chicks. They were feeding right at the water's edge. One chick did something wrong—perhaps he put his feet too far into the water—and the father bird gave him a peck and chased him into the scrub.
Ibis are everywhere; along paths, high in the trees, and hanging around picnic tables. I had a bought coffee sitting on the table in front of me. An ibis jumped up, and in a effort to snatch Alex's sandwich, knocked the coffee flying. Later Alex took a picture of one that was minding its own business.
We couldn't get a bigger picture of the freckled duck, which is a very attractive bird. Notices informed us that this is the original duck, ancestor of all the different kinds of duck in the whole world.
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