Saturday, October 01, 2016
HOLIDAYING IN AUSTRALIA
I hoped to see the shy and mainly nocturnal animal in its natural habitat, swimming in the Broken River in the Eungella National Park, Central Queensland, Australia.
So here we were before dusk, standing in the viewing area on the bridge over the Broken River. We’d taken up our positions an hour earlier, waiting patiently, and scanning the river for signs of activity.
“Watch for bubbles on the surface of the water,” the Ranger told us. “The platypus dives to the bottom for food, and strains it through his bill. Then he comes to the surface to eat it. He’s only on top of the water for a few seconds, and then he dives down again searching for more, so you have to watch carefully. And it won’t happen until the sunlight is off the water.”
Accordingly we scanned the shady areas of water carefully. We had a few false alarms as we saw tortoises swimming below us, and insects skimming the surface often gave the appearance of bubbles.
Peter trained his binoculars up-river and suddenly there it was, many meters upstream. Creating wide ripples as it dived, the platypus was clearly visible. We watched its progress as it dived and swam towards us. Finally it passed directly below us, under the bridge. It was larger than we expected at about two feet in length, and we saw quite clearly its distinctive bill, the tail, and the dark brown fur. We hurried to the other side of the bridge, hoping for another glimpse, but it had disappeared.
It was truly a unique event to see this shy, elusive creature in its natural environment.