Saturday, August 13, 2011

Territory Wildlife Park

When Mum went down to the Sunshine Coast for a MOPS conference, Dad took us to a few amazing places around Darwin. One such place was Territory Wildlife Park. I don’t know what I expected it to be like, but the park was more than what we imagined.
Most parks are zoos, with animals from all over the world. Like Dubbo Zoo: Giraffes, elephants, tigers and monkeys. But Territory Wildlife Park only had animals that live in the NT. It was amazing. A shuttle bus is provided for in the park, but you can walk. Leisl found a brochure in Katherine Information Centre called “Welcome To Darwin & The Top End” that had a very useful 10% discount coupon for the park. Leisl’s good at spotting things like that.
Firstly, we walked to the Nocturnal House. As it was dark for the animals’ natural habitat, we couldn’t take photos or videos. We also had to be very quiet so as to not disturb the animals. Barn owls, geckoes, fruit bats, sugar gliders, white-tailed rats, snakes, curlews, tawny-frogmouth owl, brush tailed possum and spiders were only some of the animals that occupied the Nocturnal house. We were blinking as we came back into the sunlight.
Our next stop was the Aquarium. There was so much aquatic life I could hardly name it all. One of the highlights was a 3m long crocodile. I was a bit nervous that there was only 2cm of glass between the croc and I! Some of the fish were: eel-tailed catfish, sleepy cod-fish, clownfish, false clownfish (black and white stripes), red-tailed squirrel fish, stonefish and lion-fish. There were very cute Australasian grebes, which look like tiny fluffy ducks. A baby sea-turtle was casually swimming against the wall among angel-fish. A sign informed us that the turtle wasn’t stressed swimming against the wall; in the wild, turtles know no boundaries. A moray eel was elegantly curving its back. Long-necked and Short-necked turtles were swimming among crocodiles. Looking at the water from behind the glass, we could see the surface and underwater quite well. On the top, it looked like a normal billabong, but underneath, you could see a few crocs lying about! The aquarium was one of my favourite places in the park.
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Long-Necked Turtle
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Moray Eel
Beware: this croc is 3m long!!
We walked past the dingo enclosure to the Oolloo Sandbar. It had all the wildlife that live in the Oolloo River. There were barramundi, archerfish and freshwater stingrays swimming about. Some of the stingrays were very big, but the guide told us that the stingrays in captivity were all juveniles; they hadn’t caught an adult freshwater stingray yet. We watched as the guide dangled a fish in the water. Suddenly there was a great POP!! We were all wondering what it was when the guide said, “That’s the sound you want to hear when you’re fishing! It’s the barramundi, sucking the fish and all the surrounding water into its mouth.” We also were handed a few mealworms. The guide told us the archerfish would see the worms and squirt them. We were to drop the worms once they squirted it. Dad was thinking, “They’re only little fish, they won’t be able to squirt that distance.” He casually stuck his hand out of the fence. The next minute, WHACK! An archerfish had hit him squarely on the hand, and splashed some of his face too! The distance from the water to our hands hanging over the fence was about 1.5 m. But the fish in there were as big as the span of my hand. The archerfish have to have extremely good eyesight to see insects crawling on the logs above them, so they can shoot a stream of water to dislodge the insect into the water.
Archerfish shooting mealworms
We caught the shuttle bus to the Function Area, and we walked to the Flight Deck. Leisl and I took turns videoing as we saw birds of prey swoop and swarm and perform for us. The first bird was a black-breasted buzzard. It had a rather square tail, and an obvious white stripe one its wings. It has tough scales on its feet, and it eats insects, reptiles, rabbits and sometimes carrion. One of its tricks was cracking open a plastic egg with a rock. Some rainbow lorikeets flew out and started brawling. They were actually a sub-species of the rainbow lorikeet that only lives in the Top End. They nest in tree hollows. The second guide said that they love mangoes, and they’ll sit eating fallen mangoes all day. They get quite drunk when they eat too many fermented mangoes, and sort of stumble around like a drunk man. Some people think they’re sick or injured but they’re actually quite drunk. The next bird was a sulphur-crested cockatoo. They make great pets, and they’re about as intelligent as a three or four year old. They can live for around eighty years, so it’s like having a three or four year old in the house for eighty years. They eat seeds mostly. A brahminy kite flew out and showed us how well it could soar and swoop. It is brown with a white head and is an opportunistic feeder. They eat crabs, fish, little animals and often hang around towns, looking for food. A dingo also came out and snuffled around.
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Rainbow Lorikeets feeding together
Black-Breasted Buzzard showing off the wingspan
Dingo - always food-focused
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Hello Cocky!
Intelligent Egg Eater – Black-Breasted Buzzard
After the show, we went to an area outside the birds’ living area. They showed us a few different birds, that weren’t ready for performing yet. The first guide came out with a juvenile wedge-tailed eagle, who’d been kicked out of the nest as a baby and as a result can’t fly. Another bird they brought out was the peregrine falcon. It was eating a whole quail. As I’ve researched peregrine falcons in Year 5, it was very interesting to see it up close. I also enjoyed listening about the barn owl, the 3rd bird they brought out. They talked about how a barn owl uses triangle vision to see in the dark. First he has one eye lower than the other. Then two lines  come from the eyes and join to make a slight triangle. That way he can hear where something is from anywhere in relation to the noise. They then brought out a rufous owl; you were allowed to slip on a leather glove and hold it, for a gold coin donation. Another bird was the pacific baza. He was very vocal and made a continuous sound like ‘racka-racka-racka-racka!’. The handler wouldn’t let him go back to his aviary until he stopped flying away from her; he was a little skittish because of only being handled for a few weeks.
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Wedge-Tailed Eagle
Peregrine Falcon
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Rufous Owl
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After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the Nocturnal house, where they were going to do a demonstration. We walked through the House again and then visited a man with a large snake crawling over his shoulders. She was a North-western Albino Carpet Python, with a yellow-white tiger pattern on her scales. She was aptly named Lady Gaga!! Us kids took turns to hold her as she slithered all around our shoulders and arms. The man was very informed and told us a lot of information about snakes like Lady Gaga. He said she didn’t particularly like people holding her, but she could put up with it. The guy draped her on a tree and she twisted around it naturally. Getting her on was fine, but getting her off was the difficulty as she curled around our arms like she did to tree branches. I was disgusted when the guy draped her on my shoulders.  It was even more uncomfortable when her cold body slightly restricted my throat.Enmity between women and snakes was in place at the Fall… and still is!
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Our next stop was the Aviary. Most of the walk was suspended in the air so we could view birds in the canopy as well. It was divided into sections; Monsoon rainforest, bushland and so on. We stepped into a small covering and spotted a button on a sign. We pressed and a monsoon demonstration started. Misty rain poured down from the roof, lightning flashed (a strobe light) and the stereo boomed with the sound of thunder. It was a very good demonstration!
We saw many birds on the Aviary walk, and lots of turtles too. However, NT birds were the focus of this walk! The main aviary was enormous. There was the ambient noise of Pied Imperial Pigeons cooing. A number of turtles were swimming in the creek that flowed between the pandanus. I videoed a few different birds, some which were not included in these photos. I spotted a goanna in the water, though my reputation for spotting things is a little pitiful. We exited through the double-door.
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Varied Lorikeet
Channel-Billed Cuckoo
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Pied Imperial Pigeon
Bush Stone-Curlew
We then did the Monsoon Rainforest walk. Tall trees looming overhead and the green colours of lush plant life. Native nutmeg, ganophyllum, kapok, cycad, cluster fig, the Leichardt tree and syzygium are just some of the tree species in an NT monsoon rainforest. We managed to point out a few orb spiders, who’d strung their webs between trees, on the sides of bridges, between saplings 10m away. A few were found weaving a web very expertly just above the walkway. I’m sure this place would be packed with fruit bats in the Wet season!
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Us kids taking a break
A rainforest creek
Orb Spider!!
The Billabong was the next place we took a look at. There was a female freshie brooding her eggs near the walk. Thankfully it was fenced off! Freshies can be aggressive when they’re brooding. There was many pelicans sitting on logs with branches jutting out of the water. Skirting the billabong was more pandanus and giant lily pads. Dad noticed a flow of water coming out of one point in the billabong bed. “Do you see how the water course is flowing away and then going back?” he said. Then we figured out it was a pipe! And the signs had said it was a natural billabong!
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Next up was the Aquarium again. Leisl took a video of everything. It was mostly the same.
We then went to Goose Lagoon. It wasn’t as good as the Billabong, to my standards. I really like lilies and reeds. A few ducks were dunking under the water to eat whatever they could find.
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Beautiful lilies
Goose Lagoon
We headed back to the shuttle stop to go back to the Main Station. It was a while in the taking, so Dad and I walked through the Walk about Patch burning and how it can help the environment or harm it. When the shuttle bus did arrive we listened as the guide informed us of the different plants around the park, rattling off the Latin names like a University professor. We took a look at the emus, and I watched a woman sketching one. Emus aren’t my favourite animal; they can be a bit threatening.  
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We had one last lap around the park, then decided to go home.
It had been an awesome day!!
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1 comment:

AJ said...

Amazing pictures! I really like the eagle and owls. :) Love you guys! xxxxxx