Kangaroo Hunt, part 1.

Wed 9 Dec 2015 23:32
Looking towards the coast from Lookout Point, between Ebor and Armidale.

Well, we’d been in Australia for three days and not yet seen a kangaroo! There were loads of them up in the hills, the locals told us, in fact they gave the impression that you couldn’t move for kangaroos: they jumped out at your car when you were driving, invaded the gardens, clogged up the drains… 

Something had to be done to rectify this situation so we hired a car for the weekend and set off on a kangaroo hunt, heading into the hills. They were beautiful. Most of the area inland from Coffs is National Park and I had imagined gum tree after gum tree after gum tree. Well, there was that, but there was so much more. The bird life was deafening, with squawks and chirps and trills, as well as raucous cackles of laughter from the kookaburras. Every now and then a rising ‘peeeee’ would sound, topped by and ear splitting ringing ‘whitt’. Hard to describe but if I tell you they are called Whipbirds you’ll understand that it sounds rather like the crack of a whip. As a back drop to all this the rasp of the cicadas rise and fall like surf on a beach.

There are birds up there for sure, we can hear them, but they're so hard to spot!

You know how much we love birds so we got diverted from the kangaroo hunt trying to spot some. The only chance was when they moved from branch to branch, or if they descended to the ground. Here’s a few I managed to get shots of:

There were lots of tiny wrens - some with bright blue feathers, Fairy Wrens, this one is a White-Browed Scrub Wren. On the right is a White Throated Gerygone, a type of warbler.

Very hard to spot was this green bird in a green tree… it’s a green Catbird, he’s about 30cm tall and one of the noisier occupants. His call is rather like a baby crying, but enough like a cat mewing to give him his name.

Up on the top of the first set of ridges is a plateaux, gentle rolling farm land, where we thought we had a good chance of kangaroo spotting, in the fields out of the shelter of trees. We saw some emus, in a field with sheep, but still no kangaroos. Bright red and blue Crimson Rosellas burst out of the bushes along side the road as we went, Yellow tailed Black Cockatoos growled and wailed at each other, flashing yellow patches when they took to the wing and a solitary Sulphur Crested Cockatoo surveyed the landscape.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Needing sustenance we stopped in the little town of Dorrigo, looking like the Wild West to my eyes, with verandas above the porches and beautiful filigree iron work.  


We headed further and further inland, following ‘The Water Fall Way”, climbing and climbing, following the motorbikes riders enjoying the tight hairpins, then the swooping bends on the plateaux, and the stunning views all along. We noticed that every where we went the creeks and roads had people’s names, mostly Scottish, but never with an apostrophe: "Smiths Lane”, “Waughs Road” and of course “Coffs Harbour”. I can only conclude that there must have been lots of Coffs, Smiths and Waughs, and that they didn’t own the roads, creeks or harbours.

The falls at Ebor.

As the afternoon wore on we gave up on that day’s kangaroo hunt and headed back towards the coast, diverting via Sawtell on our way back to Coffs. As we drove in we saw a yellow rhombus (ok, diamond, but I used to be a maths teacher and, according to Key Stage Maths examiners, a diamond is not a shape!) sign warning us that koalas were around. I’m not sure why you have to be warned. They spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping off the effects of eating eucalyptus leaves for the other 4 hours. They rarely come down from the trees and I don’t think they attack you by dropping on your head like jaguars in the Amazon (nor like snakes in Trinidad, according to Sam who did some varnishing for us on the boat). I scanned every gum tree until we reached the town, with no joy. They lied!

See any Koalas?

We found a beautiful headland to sit and eat a pie on, which is when I noticed Phil’s propensity for developing friendships with animals showing itself again. The Silver Gulls were gathering.

This is my pie!

Before long the air above him was full of gulls hanging on the wind and the ground around him over run with hopefuls.

They obviously thought they knew a soft touch when they saw one but Phil was hungry and the pie was good, only a few scraps blew their way that day.

We’d seen no kangaroos, but we’d had a wonderful day in superb scenery. We’d try again tomorrow!

Surf breaking in the bays at Sawtell.