Worlds Smallest Penguins and other Aussie Creatures

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April 8th 2009
Published: April 9th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

So now I'm in Australia once again and this time my first stop is Melbourne, Victoria. I arrived after my Qantas flight from Christchurch to Sydney and a overnight train journey to Melbourne's Southern Cross Station. I am staying with Paul and his Parents John & Chris just outside the main area of Melbourne called Beveridge. Paul & his girlfriend Allison were on the same tour in Vietnam and had invited me to stay if ever l was in Melbourne and l was pleased to take up their offer.

During the afternoon Paul and his mum took me for a drive around their local area and was amazed that about 5 minutes away is the Childhood home of the Infamous Ned Kelly.

Ned Kelly

Edward "Ned" Kelly (3 June 1854 - 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger, and, to some, a folk hero for his defiance of the colonial authorities. Kelly was born in Victoria to an Irish convict father, and as a young man he clashed with the police. Following an incident at his home in 1878, police parties searched for him in the bush. After he murdered three policemen, the colony proclaimed Kelly and his gang wanted outlaws. A final violent confrontation with police took place at Glenrowan. Kelly, dressed in home-made plate metal armour and helmet, was captured and sent to jail. He was hanged for murder at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. His daring and notoriety made him an iconic figure in Australian history, folk lore, literature, art and film.

Their first son, Edward (Ned), was born in Beveridge, Victoria just north of Melbourne in June 1855. The wooden home which at present is in dis-repair still gave the feel of what it was like in the 1800's. Next we took a drive around the area where the awful bush fires claimed many lives in the Melbourne area about 2 months ago. The whole area including thousands of trees and homes has been burnt to the ground and some people are still living in camp sites.

Phillip Island

On the Monday morning Paul and l left the family home to travel about 150km to Phillips Island were we stayed in his cousins caravan for the night. The first inhabitants of Phillip Island were the aboriginal Bunurong tribe based around Western Port. George Bass was the first European to visit Western Port on the 5th January 1798 after a voyage down the coast from Port Jackson in a 28ft whale boat. Sealers soon followed, harvesting the seals on the Bass Strait islands and Seal Rocks near the Nobbies. The McHaffie brothers took out a lease of the whole of Phillip Island in 1842 and grazed sheep here. They lost all bar 640 acres around the homestead when the Island was opened up for closer settlement during 1868-69. Conditions were very harsh for the settlers and many left because of drought, failed crops and lack of water. Chicory was one of the first crops grown and proved suitable for the Island’s climate, a lack of frosts being a main requirement. It was grown here for over 100 years and the remaining chicory kilns with their pyramid shaped roofs are a Phillip Island icon. The tourist industry started soon after subdivision. The first hotel, the Isle of Wight, opened in 1870 with the nearby Phillip Island Hotel soon after. The first regular ferry service began in 1878 making access much easier for visitors. The small paddle steamer Eclipse began running from Hastings to San Remo with stops at Cowes, Rhyll and Newhaven.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm

Experience a piece of Victoria's heritage on this historic island, where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll through the fragrant cottage gardens and lawns. Coastline walks offer magnificent views of Phillip Island and Western Port, while the restored farmhouse and cottages provide a glimpse into the past lives of early Australian settlers and past farming practices.

Churchill Island, just off the Coast of Phillip Island holds an important place in the history of European settlement in Victoria. The site of the first European agricultural pursuits in Victoria, the island has been farmed since the 1850's and in 1872 was purchased by Samuel Amess, former Mayor of Melbourne.

This tiny island of 57 hectares is now open to the public as an historic working farm that boasts significant natural and cultural values with world-class wetlands, ancient Moonah trees, heritage gardens and historic buildings. We were lucky enough to see a Blacksmith demonstration as well as Sheep shearing and working dogs in action rounding up sheep.

The Nobbies

From this magnificent headland, the views stretch forever. This area offers spectacular coastal viewing from the boardwalks and lookout points set amongst natural sea bird gardens. One and a half kilometres offshore from The Nobbies are Seal Rocks, home to Australia's largest Australian Fur Seal colony.

So the two of us Strolled along the Nobbies boardwalk and enjoy spectacular views along Phillip Island's rugged south coast. Saw the awesome blowhole, a spectacular sea cave that thunders during big southern swells. As you look out over Bass Strait from The Nobbies, you see the rocky outcrop known as Seal Rocks. It is a special place where Australia's largest colony of fur seals frolic, live and breed.
Seals belong to a group of animals called Pinnipeds. They are mammals which mean they have hair and feed their young on milk - just like humans. Fur seals have tiny ears and use both pairs of flippers when 'walking' on land - unlike true seals that have no ears and can't use their rear flippers for 'walking'.

In late October, males return and begin the ruthless fight for territory. Unsuccessful males who survive the violent clashes group together, making frequent attempts to challenge established males. Seals reach puberty between four and five years, but males cannot breed until they claim a territory (about 11 years). Most males only breed for an average of two seasons before being defeated. Females give birth between late October and late December. Five to six days after the birth she succumbs to the loud calls of a male and mates with him. Each territorial male mates with about 10 females. She then goes to sea to feed for several days and returns to suckle her pup - a pattern that is repeated for the next six to eight months. After that, the pup will go to sea with its mother to learn how to feed. A pup is weaned at about 10-11 months. The colony quietens down when the males leave in late December to early January. Seal Rocks remains home to mothers, pups and young seals for the rest of the year.

Seals spend their days swimming, rolling and diving for squid, cuttlefish and small fish - they do not eat Little Penguins. They have excellent underwater vision and can dive to 100m. It is thought they are able to detect vibrations from prey with their sensitive whiskers. Many seal pups die of starvation, injury or infection. Once at sea, weaker pups can drown during storms or fall prey to sharks.
Some young seals do not cope with leaving their mothers and starve to death. White pointer sharks take seals of all ages. It is not known how long seals live on average but the oldest recorded male was 18 and female 21.

In the early 1800s, the seals at Seal Rocks were hunted for their skin and oil. Sealers set up semi-permanent camps and bartered the skins with passing ships for products such as flour. Many 'stole' Aboriginal women and made them perform the hard task of sealing for them. Sealing was intensive and uncontrolled.

Seal Rocks provides an important breeding area and nursery for between 10-12,000 Australian Fur Seals. The area became a sanctuary in 1928 and was declared a State Fauna Reserve in 1966. Between 1966 and 1977, a small research team visited Seal Rocks to study the seal's reproductive behaviour and diet. Many seals were tagged for identification. The population was drastically reduced by sealing but annual counts during breeding seasons from 1965-1991 show the colony has slightly increased, though not back to pre-sealing numbers.

Penguin Parade

Experience one of Australia's most popular attractions. Each night at sunset you'll be amazed by Little Penguins returning ashore after a day's fishing.

You get to see the world's smallest penguin in its natural habitat from viewing stands and boardwalks. As the sun fades in the sky, Little Penguins waddle up the beach to the safety of their homes in the sand dunes. Witness this magical procession - it is a treat never forgotten. The main penguin viewing area at Summerland Beach has tiered seating and provides a 180 degree elevated viewing of the Little Penguins on parade.

The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin. The penguin, which is about 43 cm (16 in) tall, is found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand, with possible records from Chile.

Apart from Little Penguins, they have several common names. In Australia, they are also referred to as Fairy Penguins because of their tiny size. In New Zealand, they are also called Little Blue Penguins, or just Blue Penguins, owing to their indigo-blue plumage, and they are called Kororā in Māori

The male is a little larger than the female, although their plumage is similar. The head and upperparts are indigo in colour, with slate-grey ear coverts fading to white underneath, from the chin to the belly. The flippers are indigo above and white underneath. The dark grey-black bill is 3-4 cm long, the irises pale silvery- or bluish-grey or hazel, and the feet whitish above with black soles and webbing. An immature individual will have a shorter bill and paler upperparts.

Like most seabirds, they have a long lifespan. The average for the species is 6.5 years, but flipper ringing experiments have recorded individuals that have lived for over 20 years.

Koala Conservation Centre

Next Day it was time to stroll through this eucalypt woodland and come ‘face-to-face’ with koalas in their natural habitat. The Koala Conservation Centre’s unique tree top boardwalks and close viewing areas allow visitors to see how truly amazing koalas are. The new koala boardwalk provides exceptional koala viewing and features amazing views of a beautiful natural wetland area.

Promoting koala conservation, this ecotourism attraction has been essential for saving Phillip Island’s koala population and natural bush environment. The new close viewing area plays host to a special koala breeding program over the next year, ensuring it remains a key player in the conservation of these important animals.

Unlike a zoo, the Koala Conservation Centre is really unique as visitors get the chance to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, living as they would in the wild.

Another spectacular area is the woodland walk. Wandering through natural bush, amongst hundreds of different species of Australian wildlife, (including wallabies, possums, echidnas and snakes) you can try to spot the koalas yourself.

The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is a thickset arboreal marsupial herbivore native to Australia, and the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae.

The Koala is found in coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia, from near Adelaide to the southern part of Cape York Peninsula. Populations also extend for considerable distances inland in regions with enough moisture to support suitable woodlands. The Koalas of South Australia were largely exterminated during the early part of the 20th century, but the state has since been repopulated with Victorian stock. The Koala is not found in Tasmania or Western Australia.

The Koala is broadly similar in appearance to the wombat (its closest living relative), but has a thicker coat, much larger ears, and longer limbs. The Koala has large, sharp claws to assist with climbing tree trunks. Weight varies from about 14 kg (31 lb) for a large southern male, to about 5 kg (11 lb) for a small northern female. The Koala's five fingers are arranged with opposable thumbs, providing better gripping ability. The first two fingers are positioned in apposition on the front paws, and the first three fingers for the hind paws. The Koala is one of the few mammals (other than primates) that has fingerprints. Koala fingerprints are similar to human fingerprints; even with an electron microscope, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between the two.

The teeth of the Koala are adapted to their herbivorous diet, and are similar to those of other diprotodont marsupials, such as kangaroos and wombats. They have sharp incisors to clip leaves at the front of the mouth, separated from the grinding cheek teeth by a wide diastema

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10th April 2009

I love your blog! Miss you Geoff! Sound's like you are having fun. Sydney is amazing. I am loving my week here. After ready the chocolate notice I am now off to buy myself a large easter egg! Happy Easter! Love, Sabrina
12th April 2009

hey you happy easter looks like you still having a fantastic time xx
13th April 2009

Dear Geoff, I hope you have had a good easter break (ha ha) life for you is one big break at the present time lucky man! those fairy penguins are sooooo cute bring me one back pleasssssssseeeee. I cannot believe you are still on your travels as the time has gone so quick , just keep on enjoying it love Angela.xx

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