What did you get up to over the Easter holidays? While staying at home to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Charli, Zoe and Joshua along with lots of other Junior Rangers were busy discovering nature in their own backyards. As our Easter program went digital, our JR families were encouraged to try out some fun activities to get to know their backyards a little better.
From bird watching to night-time critter sounds, our young rangers got to experience nature that was right under their noses. To add to the challenge, we asked everyone who completed an activity to send their treasure hunts, bird observations, creature features, and whatever else they had done, into us so we could see all the wonderful experiences that were happening around their homes. The response was amazing, and we could tell straight away that everyone was having lots of fun.
Here are some of the entries from our winners…
Macpac, our principal partner of the Junior Rangers program offered two families the chance to win a voucher to spend on their next essential outdoor item and we’re so glad that we could do it at random as it would have been so hard to choose!
You can see that our winners, Charli, Joshua and Zoe sent in some wonderful activity sheets, photos and drawings about their backyard encounters which we loved. Here is a little more about why they got involved with the Junior Rangers program and what they love about their own backyards…
Charli, aged 11 from Mornington Peninsula has been a Junior Ranger for over two years. Charli could remember two Junior Ranger activities with our rangers, where she went along with her brother and sister, Will and Milly. One was at Coolart Wetlands and Homestead and the other at Arthurs Seat. Coolart was great because there was lots of bird watching and Arthur seat’s fun because they got to try and identify different animal poo. She particularly remembers the green square poo belonging to a wombat.
Charli enjoyed our nature treasure hunt and our creature feature activities over the Easter holidays because she could combine her love of arts and crafts and birds. In fact, Charli loves birds so much, she helps her family care for the finches they breed in their back yard. “There is so much to love about my backyard,” says Charli. Apart from the two budgies that belong to her, there is a possum that nests in the tree and Charli loves the liquid amber tree because the leaves are a lovely colour this time of year. Her favourite bird? All parrots! Charli often sees rainbow lorikeets them flying over her house. What a great backyard to be exploring and a worthy winner of our Macpac competition. Thanks, Charli.
Winners of our $100 Macpac voucher, brother and sister Joshua and Zoe, gave us an insight into their Junior Rangers activities by way of video interview surrounded by their incredible backyard bush. First Zoe interviewing Joshua and then Joshua interviewing Zoe. Here’s what they had to say…
Thanks to everyone who sent in their activities. Whatever your backyard there is always something to spot, even in the city! Look out for more of your entries online as we’ll be posting others on our Parks Victoria Facebook page.
Our competition has closed for now but you can still download all our activities on our Make & Do page. Why not check it out? We’d love to hear from you.
Photo: Ron Waters
While holidaying at Mallacoota Inlet (far eastern Victorian coastline) some keen eyed kids discovered a lost baby loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Just as the turtle was to be returned to the water, Parks Victoria’s Ron Waters noticed the river was closed to the ocean, spelling disaster for the young sea-goer. Instead, some telephone calls were made and the turtle was taken to the Merimbula Aquarium, where the turtle will be rehabilitated and released by expert hands.
What if I see an animal in need?
If you see a native animal you think needs help, report it immediately. Even the best intentions to help (as with returning the baby loggerhead to the river) may cause more stress to the animal. It is always best to call an expert for help.
Report injured animals to Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Customer Service Centre on 136 186. You can also get in contact with a local Parks Victoria ranger by calling 13 1963.
Millions of shore birds will be tweeting “See you later, Australia!” as they hightail it out of here in search of warmer weather. Having spent the summer in Victoria’s wetlands and saltmarshes, most will be gone by the 10th May. Shorebirds’ bodies have gone through a series of changes in the lead up to their long journey north. Fatter bodies, skinny legs, bigger heart muscles and brains wired to be half asleep and half awake at the same time will help these birds on their continuous journey north.
Where can I spot a shorebird before it leaves?
Victoria is proud to have eleven internationally significant wetlands. Test your bird spotting skills at one of these sites and create your own pair of wetland stilts in honour of their journey. You can also learn more about migratory birds at http://farewellshorebirds.org.au/
Two rare nocturnal animals have recently been spotted in the Grampians National Park. In December, cameras set up in the bush captured pictures of a Long Nosed Potoroo (left). Then in February they also caught a glimpse of a Spotted-tail Quoll (right). Both these animals are very rare, with the Spotted-tail Quoll thought to be extinct for the last 140 years.
This is very good news for the animals living in the Grampians National Park because it suggests the environment is healthy and there aren’t too many pests or predators hanging around. “We have been undertaking extensive fox control and other conservation works across this landscape for decades, and we know those efforts are paying off” says Ranger in Charge Dave Roberts.
Potoroos and Quolls are nocturnal, meaning they are awake at night hunting for food and sleep all day. While you might not see these rare animals in person, you can still search for clues that they were there by looking for their footprints, shown in the picture above.
Which other animals you find in your local park? Check out our Wildlife Detective activity to help hone your skills and find hard to spot animals.
Cuvier’s Beaked Whale has just won the title of Deep-Dive Champion, with a record breaking dive of 3km holding its breath for a staggering 137 minutes.
Extreme breath holders – Why and how do they do it?
Deep dives are usually in search for delicious squid and fish. Finding food at the bottom of the ocean isn’t easy though, especially for an animal that is used to spending most its time at the ocean’s surface. Deep down temperatures are much colder and there is a lot of pressure pushing on thier body, plus mammals can’t breathe underwater!
Marine mammals have special ways of dealing with these tough conditions. For example, whales send all their blood closer to their brain, keeping the most important parts warm. Some marine mammals also have collapsible lungs to cope with the high pressure. Thier lungs spring back when they return to the ocean’s surface, just like opening your drink bottle after putting it in the fridge for a while. Cuvier’s Beaked Whale also has a special way to store oxygen in their muscles, meaning they don’t have to breathe as much as usual.
These adaptions mean that marine mammals can dive incredible depths and hold their breath for extreme lengths of time – they’d certainly have an unfair advantage at your beach party!
The best time to catch the whales along the Victorian coastline is between June and September. This is when the whales come north to escape the icy cold Antarctic winter. One of the best spots to catch a glimpse is along the Warrnambool coastline, or in the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park.
Although Koalas are just as cute as bears they are actually more closely related to wombats! Like wombats, koalas are marsupial mammals – that means the female koala carries its young in a pouch.
The name koala comes from the Aboriginal word meaning “no drink” as koalas get over 90% of their water from eucalyptus leaves. Koalas only drink when they are sick or during times of drought when there is insufficient moisture in the leaves they eat.
Koalas have broad, flat heads with large round hairy ears, flat noses, short, stocky bodies, short legs and large feet with very sharp claws. They are covered in thick ash-grey fur with white on their chest, forelimbs and rump. Koalas that live in the cooler southern parts of Australia have a thicker coat of fur. Their bodies are rounded due to the capacity of their large intestines required to digest eucalyptus leaves.
FASCINATING FACT! Koalas spend 20+ hours each day SLEEPING and resing due to the low amount of energy they obtain from their leafy diet. It’s not just laziness!
They are generally more active at night and communicate using loud grunts and squeals.
Koalas are often called fussy eaters as they feed almost entirely on only fifty of the 500+ species of eucalypt leaves. An adult koala will eat up to ONE KILOGRAM of leaves each night. Different species of eucalypts grow in different parts of Australia, so a koala in Victoria would have a very different diet from one in Queensland.
KOALA SPOTTING! These school holidays you can spot Koalas living in many parks including the Great Otway National Park, Mt Eccles National Park, Grampians National Park, Barmah National Park and French Island National Park. Take a photo and send it into the JR gallery!
This beautiful but deadly blue-ring octopus was photographed near Skenes Creek by Ranger Sylvia.
Rockpool rambling is a favourite Summer acitvity for many families and there are plenty of wonders to be found along Victoria’s rocky shores. Just remember to keep your fingers where you can see them to prevent any nasty surprises, avoid handling any plants or animals, and leave everything just as you found it.