Cradle Mountain Wildlife

Platypus and Wombats and Wallabies, oh my! One of the most exciting features of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is the wildlife. If you want to see the charismatic mega-fauna, you’ll need to head out at dusk (or perhaps at dawn, but the sun rises so early in Tasmania in the summer that we never tried this). The easiest beasties to see are the wombats, which trundle out of their burrows at about 5:30pm and feast away on the alpine heather for a solid eight to twelve hours every night.

img_8112The easiest viewing spots for wombats are either along the boardwalk at Ronny Creek (here, Prescott is essentially sitting on top of a wombat that has tunneled its way happily under the boardwalk)…

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… or (2) alongside the main road between the Visitor’s Center and the Ranger Station (here, I’m gracefully stalking a wombat that would rather be eating in peace):

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But truthfully, these animals seem so focused on their evening meal that they don’t seem to mind the endless snapping of cameras.

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Slightly more elusive – but still relatively easy to find – are the Bennett’s wallabies. These wallabies are unusually fat because – unlike their Australian mainland kangaroo counsins — they don’t have to do a lot of hopping around to find food and water. So they’ve evolved with shorter tails and rounder tummies. You can find them in forests or alongside the road just at dusk (which, unfortunately, means that many of them end up as roadkill). We saw this baby just after the sun went down on the park’s Enchanted Walk:

img_8354A second wallaby ran away from me (most do) — and while the photo quality is terrible, I love the action shot:

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Even harder to find is the duckbilled platypus. These shy monotremes (egg-laying marsupials) like to come out to play in the dark edges of lakes, ponds, and quiet creeks just as night begins to fall. So if you see one, it’s likely to be in the near-dark, and it’ll probably look like a stick (you can play “try to spot the platypus” in the photo below)…

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…but we were lucky enough to see two platypuses – and maybe three – at Pine Creek along the Enchanted Walk trail.

 

Etymological side note: a helpful sign informed me that the plural of “platypus” is either just “platypus” or “platypuses.” The plural cannot be “platypi,” which I would like it to be, because that would suggest a Latin root. Since “platypus” is from the Greek, the correct plural would be “platypodes,” but nobody says that.

There’s plenty for birders to do, but with no effort at all you can see dozens of black currawongs.

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These scavengers have learned how to open backpacks and steal the food inside! In the guestbook inside of our Cradle Mountain cabin, the previous residents had written, “the black bird is scary.”

While I was told by a previous visitor that there would be snakes “everywhere” in Tasmania, we saw not a single one. We did run into a lot of skinks on the Face Track trail — this one is either a mountain skink or a southern snow skink (my skink ID abilities aren’t strong enough to make a definitive determination):

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The other form of wildlife that’s especially evident in the summertime on Cradle Mountain is the flora – specifically, alpine and sub-alpine flowers. Flowers that I think I’ve identified accurately include Tasmanian Christmas Bells …

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… spreading guinea flowers …

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…. grassland paper daisies …

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… flag irises (I think these are western flags, though they could just be of the white flag variety) …

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… broadleaf triggerplants …

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… this mystery flower (which looks more like it should be in Singapore than in sub-alpine Tasmania) …

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… and mountain rockets!

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There is also a variety of small white flowers that I have not identified, including these:

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And I also love these mossy green rocks up in the alpine region, which support entire tiny mountain ecosystems…

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… and the itty bitty mushrooms that only rarely dot the shadier parts of the landscape:

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