Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eels, Leeches, And a Giant Spider on My Face [updtd]

So you're in Australia. In the southeastern state of New South Wales, the North Carolina of Australia. In Sydney. (Let's call it Wilmington). Go straight north from the city center about 20 miles, er, about 32 kilometers, and you run into Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

Now you all know where to search for my body.

Right. To the latest excursion.

I entered the park at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, and soon heard a "knocking on a hollow wood box" bird-call I am completely unfamiliar with. Five-second video:

I unfortunately do not know the type of this gum (eucaplyptus) tree, but it is a big, beautiful, splotchy specimen:

So I'm taking a big step down from one rock to another when I go full face into a thick spider web. Hooray for me. I get as much web off my face and out of my hair as possible, hoping that no giant spider was on my head, and amble on. About a minute later I feel something walking on my left cheek. It was, of course, a giant spider.

This is Nephila edulis, the Gold Orb Weaver. Not much power in their venom—localized pain and swelling is all—but they're big. I unfortunately seem to have dislodged a leg or two from her. (Yes, her: the males are much smaller.) Sorry about that, spider.

Now here's a very cool thing I just learned via this hike. I got a few shots of a big brown bird that seemed very curious about me. Almost looked hawkish [update, April 18, 2011: Christine found a hawkish story!], but also kind off dovish.

A little closer:

I had no idea what it was, but this fantastic website, Birds in Backyards, has a Bird Finder: You enter in relative size, color, body type, and tail type, and it will suggest a possible bird. I did just that with this bird—and found my bird: a Brown Cuckoo Dove. No question about it. Here are some more pics. And here's its backside, just because:

If anyone can give me a clue as to what kind of flower this is, it'd be greatly appreciated. Christine guessed oleander, but that's not quite right. Related maybe?

I came to Cowan Creek, and saw some strange animal tracks. I have no idea what they are - but I just found a photo on Flickr of what some dude says is swamp wallaby tracks. They're just like my tracks here!

I saw a wallaby, a swamp wallaby, I'm sure, as they're the only ones in these parts, as far as my reading tells me.  It was a beautiful dark chocolate brown, and its back appeared out of a large ferny area as it hopped away from me. No pic, alas: I chased it, of course, but wallabies are a bit faster than humans.

I did get a pic of an eel, or, like the cobbler catfish, an eel-like fish. Huge, maybe three feet long.

Video of another, smaller one:

I think they're Long-finned Eels. Fascinating!

The larvae of Long-finned eels (glass eels, ~58 mm length) enter estuaries and migrate upstream to freshwater habitats where they may remain for up to 52 years before returning to the ocean to spawn and die.

More here.

While filming that first eel, I had the holy crap scared out of me by a huge, fat owl, or owl-like bird, that flew out of a tree just above the creek and made a getaway. The camera, flying violently around, as it often just does, unfortunately did not capture anything but the sound of its esccape.

I looked down at my feet at one point, and saw blood. Leeches. Again.

Then, whilst picking leeches from by bloody feet, a tiny bird came to visit, just a few feet away. Once again I fed some info into the Birds in Backyards bird finder tool, and, I found the Yellow Breasted Robin.

She's a beauty, isn't she?


  1. So cool Thom. You are like our own Marlin Perkins, risking you life to bring us cool stuff. ;~) I especially liked the eels. Beautiful swimming motion...Keep 'em coming.

  2. Willa and Grandma Sue just watched these interesting pictures and videos! Willa says, "That was cool but gross on the blood video!" She thinks the big brown bird is a 'scissor bird" because it's big and brown and 'it's tail is long and it cuts it's nest because it doesn't want it to be too long!' Future ornithologist???
    Fun to see you, Thom! Hi to Christine, too! (Willa wants to know if Christine was there with you in the woods?)

  3. Thank you so much, Sue. Great to see you here!

    And thanks to you, too, Gene.