Did you hear about the Melbourne couple who found a crocodile in their yard on Christmas Day (2017)?
Or the man who discovered a giant goanna attached to his house?
How about Gigantor, an enormous eastern brown snake found in an NSW Central Coast backyard?
We share our yard with some of the most beautiful birds on the planet. Also possums, reptiles and a little thing we laughingly call sex fiend zombie mice.
WEIRD AUSSIE WILDLIFE – SEX FIEND ZOMBIE MICE
Of course, that is not their correct name. When one of my sons read about these creatures’ unusual breeding behaviour he coined the term and for us, it has stuck.
We first encountered these rodents several years ago. When they started visiting I was quite horrified as, on first glance, they look a lot like rats.
Then one night, during a family barbeque, we noticed dozens of them running around in another part of the yard.
This unusual behaviour prompted me to look at them a little more closely (which is kind of difficult as they move really fast). I soon realised they were not really anything like rats and we were prompted to discover what they actually were.
Google to the rescue. We read that our visitors were actually marsupial mice. Funny, put the word ‘marsupial’ in front of animals you are not a fan of and they suddenly seem quite sweet. They are also known as Antechinus.
Further reading revealed what they were actually doing in our yard was having a massive orgy. These funny little creatures have the most bazaar breeding habits that end up in death.
During the breeding season, the male mice are so dedicated to the cause that they don’t stop – neglecting to eat and drink until they finally collapse and die from exhaustion and a shutdown of their internal organs. Talk about going out with a bang!
The little creatures are not living in our yard – or house, thank goodness. They come from a neighbouring house, often around dusk, to party, feast and orgy.
WEIRD AUSSIE WILDLIFE – POSSUM PARENTING
More permanent residents are a brush-tailed possum mum and her baby, who we have had the delight of watching grow.
They live in a cavity under the deck roof. They can’t get into the roof proper from this point, so it is a small space they share.
Our lives seem to revolve around these house guests. During the recent heat waves we’ve been experiencing, I diligently watch and wait for the possums to appear each night, concerned they may have perished in the heat.
Their entry and exit points are right above our barbecue. We’ve been known to delay cooking for ages while waiting for them to stick their little heads out from under the roof, squeeze their bodies nearly flat to get through the tiny gap and then climb vertically down a brick wall before jumping into the sanctuary of the garden.
Within minutes, they are happily munching on leftover seed in our bird feeder while our stomachs are rumbling as we finally start the cooking process. We don’t like to scare them off their nightly adventures with barbecue smoke and bright lights, so diligently turn off all the outside lights when their little faces pop out.
When we first noticed they were sharing our abode, Hubby suggested we block their entrance after they leave one night but I couldn’t bear the thought of denying a mum and her newborn their home.
The baby is getting bigger now and can even climb down the wall by himself instead of hanging onto mum’s back. They are damaging the wooden beam that holds up the roof, so soon we will have to block their way and force mum to find a new home.
WEIRD AUSSIE WILDLIFE – REMARKABLE REPTILES
Some sunny days you can become dizzy walking in our yard as it appears the ground itself is moving. It is, in fact, hundreds of skinks that have made our yard their home.
These beautiful little creatures make quite a racket in the ground leaves, which can be a little disconcerting when you are already on the lookout for poisonous snakes.
I haven’t seen a snake in our yard yet, but feel certain they visit from time to time. We are surrounded by bush and have a couple of small ponds (they love water and the little creatures it attracts). Australia is home to around 140 different species of land snake. Of these, 100 are venomous, but only around 12 species potentially deadly. However, despite all the talk about our poisonous snakes, most are relatively shy and would rather retreat than attack, unless provoked. Most bites occur when people try to kill or capture them.
Our yard attracts blue tongue lizards from time to time. These amazing creatures are shyer and slower than other lizard species. Their remarkable feature is their large, bright blue tongue, used to scare would be predators. I always feel lucky when I see one in our yard.
Our ponds attract frogs – mainly striped marsh frogs, though we have seen a few bright green tree frogs occasionally.
It always makes me happy to hear their croaking song, though it can be deafening at times. Frogs are kind of like an environmental barometer so their presence lets you know that, at least in that tiny patch of the world, the environment in doing OK.
WEIRD AUSSIE WILDLIFE – BEAUTIFUL BIRDS
This is one of the best shows on earth. Tough to get anything done when the birds are performing.
The little ones – fairy-wrens, hummingbirds and finches, like to play in the early morning and at dusk. They luxuriate in long playful splashing in the bird bath, congregate to sing in the trees and forage for food in the native plants.
Then their big cousins come out. Rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, eastern rosellas and the kings, with their beautiful crowns, the white-crested cockatoos.
It’s fun to watch the pecking order at work. The cockatoos, four times bigger than the others, rule the roost (well, at least the bird feeder and bath). The others hang back, sometimes queuing up for their turn to eat.
The lorikeets are the bullies. Usually smaller than the others, these delightfully colourful birds push their way to the front of the line, using shrill screeches to let the others know their place.
The king parrots are next in line, followed by the rosellas, who quietly and patiently wait their turn to eat.
Most mornings, we are greeted by the sound of laughter from the kookaburras.
We don’t get many in our yard and do not feed them (they like meat) because they can agro when you are too slow with their meal.
That doesn’t stop the odd one from dropping in from time to time to say “hi”.
Of course, there is a host of other beautiful birds that also visit. As of 2014, there were nearly 900 recorded bird species in Australia.
Almost all cockatoos are Australian and no other continent other than South America has as many parrots.
Did you know watching birds is good for your health? Studies have shown it can reduce incidences of depression, anxiety and stress.
Observing backyard visitors and recording your findings can help researchers track changes and plan how to manage them.
There are several citizen science projects you can become involved in to help the environment this way.
While I love spending the time to find nature’s hidden treasures, I also love the idea there is so much going on around me that I do not know about. It means every day there is the chance for a new and wonderful discovery.
Who shares your yard?