We have arrived in Australia with our almost-13 year old granddaughter, Cora. Our quest, Cora’s actually, is to learn about native Australian wild animals. We flew west and south with the night inside the Earth’s shadow for 16 hours, flying direct from Vancouver to Melbourne.
We had a hotel just two blocks from the beach in the St. Hilda section and, as evening came on our first day, we staggered, jet-lagged, out on a rocky jetty and stood leaning into a cold, stiff wind coming in from the Southern Ocean. Tiny (40 to 45 cm.) blue-black Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) are the smallest of all penguins. One by one, they hopped and clambered up the jumbled boulders of the jetty. They return at sunset each day after foraging for anchovies and such as much as 40 km offshore. They hop and stand and waddle while they frequently vocalize — a series of squawks and grumbles and barks that may relate to seeking their mate or seeking to mate.
Penguin eyes are adapted to the light deep in the sea which is blue and seem to have very little sensitivity to red. With Scott’s help back in Seattle, we had put red filters in our three flashlights and we spent hours having a very special time watching these little birds while we slid toward first stage hypothermia with an estimated wind chill factor of 10 degrees F.
These are recordings of some penguins making a racket on Wednesday after most of the tourists had left the pier.
Hot pizza and salad in an Italian restaurant revived us and so off to bed — day one in Australia finished.
Given that Melbourne is a big city but with trams and Uber with many very friendly and helpful Australians advising us, we ventured off to the Melbourne Museum the second day. We learned a bit of ancient Aboriginal culture and the very difficult history of the colonization of this continent, realizing many sad historical similarities to our Northwest Coast indigenous people. We were all impressed with the beauty of a special media presentation of flight as it related to the Aboriginal exhibit.
Then, on to the Melbourne Zoo to see some of Australia’s not-so-wild animals where we found many large birds (ibis, spoonbill, emu, black swan, great egret and more) particularly fascinating as they preened, bathed, stretched and groomed each other in the late afternoon. Cora also enjoyed watching three Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats and declared them, along with the Little Penguins, “the cutest Australian animals” she’d seen so far. And, we didn’t forget to get some warm gloves for Cora, as she had forgotten them back in Seattle and our first night observing Little Penguins made such warm items essential. We have more chilly days here in Southern Australia, and winter has certainly arrived, especially in the coastal areas.
Please note that Cora is following in her brother’s footsteps and is taking some very fine photographs to document our Australian adventures. We are all enjoying using and sharing our two cameras, so our blog entries represent a combination of the many pictures we take and that Leslie edits. Another surprise: Cora is so technologically savvy that she is helping Val with a variety of computer problems!