Monacled Cobra

monacled cobra

Monocled cobras are found from India in the west through to China, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as on the Malay Peninsula and are native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal, and Thailand. They prefer habitats associated with water, such as paddy fields, swamps, and mangroves, but can also be found in grasslands, shrublands, and forests.

The monocled cobra gets it common name from the O-shaped, or monocellate hood pattern on the rear of its hood. It’s distinct to that of the Indian cobra or spectacled cobra which has a “spectacle” pattern, formed by the two circular ocelli connected by a curved line.

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Photo taken at Taronga Zoo, Sydney.

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Baby Francois Langur

langur baby

The Francois Langur or Francois Leaf-monkey is born bright orange in colour which is believed to help with identification before its coat changes to black, with distinctive white cheek markings in maturity. They can be found in small populations in semi-tropical monsoon and moist tropical and sub-tropical rainforests in southern China, and north-eastern Vietnam.

These monkeys are under threat from habitat loss due to local cultivation and wood cutting for firewood as well as mining and other resource extraction. The isolation of populations due to habitat fragmentation also threatens the genetic viability of small populations. In some areas of China, the threat of hunting is extremely severe, due to the illegal production of “black ape wine,” which is made specifically from this species; the animals are even imported illegally from Vietnam for this purpose.

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Birds in flight

I’ve taken a lot of photos of birds but they almost all have something in common. They’re all sitting relatively still. I’ve yet to master taking photos of birds in flight. The swallows in the local park are just too fast to practice on so it was off to the Free Flight Bird Show at Taronga Zoo. Here I was guaranteed to find birds flying in a fairly predictable pattern and also birds that would soar rather than flap wildly!

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You can’t go past the birds of prey for providing an impressive silhouette against the blue of the sky and none in Australia are bigger than the wedge-tailed eagle with a wingspan of up to 2.3m.

bird show

Falcons might be smaller than the wedge-tailed eagle but they are still quite a sight!

I’m still not ready to head down to the local park again to try to capture the swallows in flight but I might try some of the larger and slower local birds soon…

Eyelash Viper

eyelash viper

The eyelash viper is a small species of pit viper that can be found in Central and South America. Their habitat ranges from tropical rainforests, wooded cloud and mountain forests to dense sea-level forests or streamside vegetation in lowlands and foothills.

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Photo taken at Taronga Zoo, Sydney.

Echidna

echidna

Echidnas are found all across Australia from desert, to forests and even alpine regions.

Using their pointed snouts and sharp claws, Short-beaked Echidnas break into ant and termite nests and catch their prey by flicking their long sticky tongues in and out.

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Hunter Valley

When I was a child we used to travel to the Upper Hunter Valley to visit my grandmother in a small country town. Many hours were spent looking out of the car window at the landscape passing by. It was a mixture of trees and open paddocks, some cows, sheep and horses, not to mention the kangaroos and even some vineyards.

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I recently returned there for the first time in around 30 years. While there are still plenty of trees, paddocks and animals between Sydney and the Upper Hunter, I was surprised at just how many mines there are as well.  A chain of mines all along the Hunter River load coal onto trains which then deliver it to the port in Newcastle.

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World Giraffe Day

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Giraffe numbers in Africa have plummeted by 40% over the last 30 years. It is estimated that there are only less than 100,000 giraffe remaining in all of Africa. World Giraffe Day on 21st June is designed to raise awareness and support for giraffe in the wild.

The giraffes at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo have some of the best views in town of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

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Thinking of summer…

cicada

It’s the winter solstice here so the thing to do in mid-winter is to think about the sounds of summer! There are more than 200 species of cicadas in Australia and at 120 decibels some are loud enough to be painful to the human ear. Many cicadas sing in the heat of the day while others sing only at dusk. A number of their common names were initially given to them by children so cicadas have some of the most colourful common names in the insect world, including Black Prince, Double Drummer, Floury Baker, and the Green Grocer or Yellow Monday.

To spot a cicada you need to spend a bit of time outside in the garden or park and be observant but there is no skill or luck involved in finding the cast off skin from cicada nymphs that have emerged from underground when ready to become fully-winged adult cicadas. In some areas there can be dozens on a single tree. The skin usually splits at the back and the cicada emerges leaving an almost complete cast of their bodies with the legs intact. This means that they will continue to hang on the trunk of the tree in plain sight. It is not uncommon for kids to collect the cast off skins and wear them like a badge.

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(Wild) Life in the suburbs!

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One of the great things about living in Sydney is that even quite close to the centre of the city, there is a lot of greenery and wildlife. When you get a little height and look out over the suburbs along with the terracotta roof tiles there is significant amount of green from the leaves on the trees that line the streets and backyards to the larger patches of green that indicate the local parks and sporting grounds. Our local park has views of the tops of the office buildings in central Sydney but is also a regular haunt of both ringtail and brushtail possums, fruit bats and a host of different species of birds. It is common to see a flock of galahs like this one, feeding on the grass seeds.

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Fishing Cat

fishing cat2

Fishing cats are small jungle cats that are famous for their abilities in and around the water as adept swimmers. They are about twice the size of a typical domestic cat. Fishing Cats are found throughout Asia from Eastern Pakistan through to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as Bangladesh and parts of Sumatra and Java. Destruction of habitat is the biggest threat to fishing cats as wetland habitats in this area have decreased by 95% as more and more wetlands are drained for farming and commercial use.

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