It all started in Fremantle when there across the park from where we were walking was a bunch of camels just parading along.  Later, at Airlie Beach on the eastern coast we saw another cluster of them, this time loaded with goods and people and to all appearances, about to head off into the bush to cross the continent.

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But we often saw them just grazing in a field, often along with horses or cows.

Sighting some of the animals below was common enough as we drove, but often they were too far away to photograph, or just disappeared before we could get the camera out and ready.  So some of the photos you will see below were taken at the Australia Zoo, north of Brisbane and started by Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter,” that beloved Australian television personality who was killed suddenly and unexpectedly by the strike of a sting ray to his heart.  His wife and children have since expanded and enlarged the zoo, and is the one place in Australia where the bush animals are easy to get close to–sometimes close enough to pet.  Thus the source of some of these photos.

Take koalas, for instance. We saw them quite often up in the trees, usually sleeping if not eating eucalyptus leaves, but they were too high and obscured by the trees to photograph.  Here are a few shots a little closer up.

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Here’s mom and the baby, clinging to her back where they spend most of their third to ninth month of life.

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And they really get good at sleeping just about anywhere above ground.

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Also difficult to get close to in the wild are the kangaroos the country is so famous for.  Fortunately at the zoo they are mostly interested in lying around and being petted by children.

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Kanagaroos, Australia Zoo, QLD, Australia

We also watched a couple of dingos play with their keepers–just like the dogs they look so much like.  Here’s one taking a break and surveying the scene from his rock perch.

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Bonnie also wanted included a couple of species that are her personal favorites.  We saw lots of two types of lizards on our hikes in the bush.  Here is an Eastern Water Dragon, not to be confused with the fire breathing beach dragon at the top of this blog.

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Here is his cousin and frequent companion, the monitor lizard.

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We saw them as large as about three feet long, but most were little guys just hanging out with their heads in the air, striking us as a little haughty and arrogant.

Bonnie’s other favorite were the spiders that managed to span enormous spaces with their huge webs–often as much as six or eight feet across.

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Here’s the web owner, himself with a body at least an inch and a half long and a leg span of eight inches.  This is why Bonnie always manages to have Dave  in the lead when we hike a new trail, and why he is so cautious since so many of Australia’s spiders are poisonous.

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We also happened to meet a young naturalist with a walking stick while on a beach boardwalk one day.  Can you tell which is the twig and which the insect?

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We also had a wonderful day out on the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling at three different spots, but have little to show for it since we did not have an underwater camera.  But here is a Maori Wrasse named Walter who meets the boat each time it pulls up to this particular dive site.

Great Barrier Reef, OLD, Australia

And finally there are the birds.  Camping as we do, we are almost always in wooded natural settings which accumulate birds of so many varieties.  There are the crows native to this continent that sound nothing like the North American crows we are familiar with.  These birds sound like screaming babies and are into their calls, particularly as dusk settles and they are on their way to their night perches, just when babies might be complaining of fatigue before they are put to bed.

Certainly the most beautiful are the Rainbow Lorikeets, like small parrots or macaws.  This afternoon one came waling up to us and proceeded to nibble at Dave’s toenails when he stopped.  Pretty strange behavior for a pretty bird!

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Much rarer and bigger but equally beautiful is the Scarlet Macaw which we only saw at the zoo.

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One of Bonnie’s favorites is the K00kaburra, famed for the children’s song about it sitting in the old gum tree.

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But now for the BIG birds–the record breakers.  Let’s start with the Emu, the largest bird native to Australia and often over six feet tall and second only to the ostrich for size.  They can sprint as fast as 30 miles per hour and  this is certainly important since they are flightless.  Their claws are weapons and can do serious damage if they are threatened.  And sometimes they just like to stroll through a campground early in the morning while most everyone is still asleep in hopes of finding a little of the leftovers from the night before.

Emu, Emu Park Campground, QLD, Australia

Emu, Emu Park Campground, QLD, Australia_2

Closely related as a flightless bird is the Cassowary, slightly smaller than the emu but still absolutely huge!  They are nearing extinction in some areas of northern Australia, and this sort of road sign is rather common:

Mission Beach, OLD, Australia

And like their relative the Emu, Cassowary females really have it figured out.  They do their dance with the handsome devil down the way, then lay their eggs, but from then on the handsome devil becomes the devoted father. He sits on the eggs for nearly two months, then is responsible for feeding the young ones for another six months.  Even then, when the young are up and around, it is Dad who does the tending.  Mom is off playing with the younger guys.

Cassowary, Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia

This guy and his young one came by our campsite one afternoon to show off a bit.

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At the same time we have to be very careful  Their three toed claws are fearsome and the middle claw is often as long as five inches.  They have been known to attack humans by leaping up (they can jump almost five feet high) and ripping at the person with their claws.  Check out the claw on this one.

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And finally there is the Scrub Turkey, our most frequent visitor and a regular for every meal we cook.  They are not the prettiest and certainly not the largest, but given Thanksgiving and Christmas here in Australia, we couldn’t help but contemplate how one might satisfy Americans’ need for a turkey dinner for each holiday.  But no, we just let them roam around and kept them away from the table!

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