There is a sequence of talks and shows through the day – birds, koalas, (small) reptiles, dingos and so on, culminating in the largest reptiles. The snakes and lizards show was entertaining, as well as informative, partly because of the visitors’ responses.
‘Does anyone want to put this Woma around their neck?’ Response: trepidation.
‘What about this Boa Constrictor?’ Response: consternation.
But the relaxed attitude of the staff holding the snakes did reassure the visitors, and quite a few were confident enough to step forward.
Visitors were not, however, invited to step forward and handle the snappy logs. The crocodiles were quite lethargic because of the cool weather but still not to be taken lightly. Both of our Australian species were presented:
The Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) can grow to about 3 m in length but are usually 1.5 – 2 m. They are primarily fish-eaters, though they will also take insects, amphibians and small mammals; they are unaggressive and are considered harmless to people.
The Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is quite a different proposition. The world’s largest living reptile, it can grow to at least 7 m and 1300 kg, and large individuals can tackle prey up to the size of a water buffalo. There are very few fatal attacks on people but staying well away from them is strongly recommended!
The first of these two pictures shows one of the Sanctuary’s larger salties; the second shows a considerably smaller animal.
Getting back to the abundant bird life at Billabong Sanctuary …
Whistling Ducks were everywhere, by twos and threes and tens, sometimes foraging alongside the Magpie Geese as in the photo on the left. The Magpie Geese were, I think, the largest birds there. The two pictured are not quite adults – they will soon lose the brown tinge to become pure white and black.
The beautiful Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), quite a bit smaller than the common White Ibis, were new to me, but I have known Moorhens since I was a child in Victoria. Billabong also claims to host one of its close relatives, the Purple Swamphen, but we didn’t notice any during our visit.
The third of the pictures below shows a Heron, characteristically perched on a branch overhanging the water and surveying it for prey. It is grey and it is a heron but it isn’t a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea): it’s a Pied Heron (Ardea picata). We also saw pure white Egrets, although I didn’t get any photos worth sharing.
Congratulations to anyone who recognised the feathered football as a sleeping Magpie Goose. If you are still having trouble seeing that it really is a natural posture, this shot of a pair I had seen earlier may help: