Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Echidnas on the move.

It is the season for Echidnas to try to commit suicide on our roads. We have already seen one unfortunate case, recently.

Today, I have photos of no less than two in two days which were "playing" around the edge of local roads. Both survived their dangerous adventures.

This first one was in splendid condition, with lovely long spines, and judging by the fresh green grass, and the soft sandy soil, it was doing nicely. Unfortunately it was beside the busy Illawarra Highway, right at the top of Macquarie Pass, on a Friday late afternoon, when the road was very busy.

You can see it firstly just clinging into the lush green grass, in its normal reaction to being approached by a person - tuck everything "in" and just cling onto anything..In the second image, it has started to dig straight down into the soil. It does this by pushing the soil underneath its body more or less straight out sideways. When the soil is soft, as it was in this case, then this is a very effective digging technique. And of course, it tucks its head down, and the huge brush of spines on its tail protects its rear end (visible on the left)

"Going Down"

Then on Saturday afternoon - the next day - Jim and I spotted this little Echidna going for a walk beside the Jamberoo Mountain Road, on the Budderoo Plateau (sandstone country). By contrast, the soil here is very dry and stony.
Oops, I've been seen!
When this fellow realised it had been "spotted", it headed for cover - in this case a dead log lying on the ground. I was surprised quite how quickly it headed off.
With its head down, under the log, the very heavily protected tail stands out, with the distinctive long yellowish spines. This little Echidna had a very poor set of spines. The old spines were broken off in many cases. I had thought it was young one, which had simply not yet grown a good set of spines on its back (an assumption based upon its small size). But on close inspection, there were spines there, where the tips had been broken off.This is the same Echidna, taken from the other side of the log. This is its head end, but of course, the delicate head is hidden by being poked down low to the ground, under the log. Given the stony soil of this exposed area, the strategy of ducking its head under a log makes good sense.


mick said...

Very interesting photos and descriptions. You haven't mentioned the smell. It must be strong - years ago I had a dog that used to go absolutely crazy whenever she scented an echidna in the bush next door. She wasn't permitted to chase them, of course, but she sometimes even broke her chain to get off and try to go after them.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
I have never noticed any smell. Of course, I do not have such a good nose as dogs do. I can tell you about Wombats, especially dead ones, but that is another story.

Mosura said...

Interesting pics. I've moved Echidnas before but can't recall any particular smell. Hedgehogs on the other hand are rather odiferous little things.

Denis Wilson said...

These little guys are often (always) uncooperative, when it comes to photos.
I have never noticed smell either. But we don't have noses as good as dogs.

Duncan said...

They're busy down here too Denis, we saw three on a recent outing.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Duncan

Its god to know they are active in Gippsland too.
I fear for them, because they are such clumsy little guys, and have no road sense AND they have a slow reproductive rate. I fear their breeding rate must surely be lower than their death-by-road rate.

I always stop and try to shoo them away from roads, but, of course, if an Echidna wants to cross a road, then I am not likely to be able to change its mind, am I?


Northern Shade said...

I enjoyed your photos and tale of the two echidnas. It's too bad that the burying and hiding technique is not as effective against cars, as it is against potential predators.