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Warning – if you’re tired of bird photos, this is not the blog entry for you, just close this down and continue on with your day!

Yesterday, Hugh and I went to the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Rockhampton Zoo. They’re right next to each other so you park in one spot and can visit both easily (and if you bring your golf clubs, there’s a golf course next door). We loved visiting both and much to our surprise – they’re both FREE!

Let’s start with the cactus and succulents part of the gardens. These were amazing and reminded us so much of the gardens we love in Arizona. As we were looking at these other-worldly plants, we suddenly realized that we have managed to find somewhere to live that has our 2 favourite environments together – desert plants and an ocean! Here are some of the fun desert plants we saw:

This one makes me think of Dr Seuss:

There was lots of bamboo scattered around the gardens. Prior to yesterday, if you had asked me how tall bamboo is, I would have guessed 2-3 metres. Well, I would have been very wrong! Check this out (Hugh is 6 ft 2 in for reference – it’s the huge plant that looks like a tree in the background, not the little one in the foreground):

Here are some interesting facts about bamboo. Of high interest in the tropics is that it can cool the area by 8 degrees! It was a windy day when we were at the gardens and the sound of the wind rattling through the bamboo reminded me of rain:


I have no idea what this tree is, but we just loved the flower:

Also no idea what this tree is, but it sends branches down to the ground to become extra roots!

There was a beautiful pond and waterfall in the Japanese garden:

And now, the birds, oh my gosh, there were so many varieties of birds! There is a big lagoon that forms part of the gardens, so we saw black swans, Australian pelicans, and all sorts of ducks:

The duck photo isn’t terribly interesting, but if you look closely, you’ll see small round dots sort of scattered around the duck at the top of the photo – those are turtles! I couldn’t get a good photo that would show their shells under the water, this is the best I could do.

Even more interesting were all the birds on the land. The Rainbow Lorikeets tended to hang out at the outdoor cafe tables and were quite frankly pests! One family had about 8 of them on their table with them plus one standing on the woman’s head! Didn’t feel comfortable snapping of photo of the poor family so you’ll just have to imagine that sight.

Here’s the bird with my favourite name – the Australasian (or Purple) Swamphen!

How can you not love something called a swamphen! They were scaredy-cats so it was hard to get this photo – very glad I did because they were mostly in the shade and you didn’t notice the fabulous blue on them until the sun hit them right.

And then there was the Little Corella (type of cockatoo), also a scaredy-cat and hard to photograph:

A Crested Pigeon:

I’m pretty sure, but not 100% (the beak doesn’t seem right), that this is an Olive-Backed Oriole:

Perhaps some of my Aussie friends can chime in with their thoughts on this one – I’ve combed through Merlin and the internet and this is the best I could come up with.

Now these guys were a hoot (literally, they were noisy) to watch. They were in constant motion so I couldn’t get a photo and had to take a video:


They’re called Apostlebirds and there’s something about their short beak and furry-looking feathers that just made me smile.

These birds we saw later when we were walking along the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton before going for dinner at the absolutely amazing restaurant TruFusion (not cheap but incredible flavour combinations, terrific service, and a patio overlooking the river). The 2 on the right are Burdekin Ducks and the one on the left is a Pied Cormorant like we saw at the crocodile farm.

This last bird I saw earlier in the week at work. It’s called a Noisy Miner and the descriptions all say they can be aggressive but it was actually the lorikeets that were aggressive and kept chasing these guys away:

OK let’s make the transition from birds to the zoo – with an emu! (I’m a poet and didn’t know it :))

One animal I didn’t expect to see here was an otter:

The chimps were of course amazing, so human-like:

It was hard to get photos of them because where you could get close had a glass barrier and so you tended to get photos of your own reflection instead of the chimps, but this one wasn’t bad. I just love how the one is sitting at the top – if that doesn’t tell you where we humans evolved from, I don’t know what does :). There was also a gibbon and I can’t believe I missed getting this photo – he had been sitting on a perch and then swung over to hang on some ropes right in front of the viewing window. I was again struggling to get him in the photo instead of the reflection on the glass and so I missed a stunning display – he hung there with his genitals at our face height and just peed and peed and peed! I guess he’d been holding it awhile to give a show to the spectators. Glad there was a glass barrier there, could have been messy.

The dingoes looked just like dogs, I can see why people approach them, it’s really hard to tell the difference:

Now at this point you’re thinking, let’s get to the title of the blog already, Justine! OK OK, let’s do the meerkat:


Except when they were sitting, well, sitting like a meerkat, they were in constant motion like you see in the video. They have an incredibly rapid metabolism and they are fed 5 times a day – 3 meals of insects and 2 of vegetables and they just give them the veggies as filler so they feel full. It costs $1,000 per week to feed just a handful of meerkats in the zoo. But they certainly are cute! Despite their name, they are not cats but rather a member of the mongoose family. And they’re way smaller than they look in cartoons :).

And what Australian zoo would be complete without koalas!

What a poser! I used him as the feature image for this week’s blog to make you wait for the cute meerkat photos :).

There were kangaroos at the zoo as well, but as seems to be typical for kangaroos, they were lying down in the shade of a tree. In case you didn’t hear, Oct 24 was World Kangaroo Day! I love that it’s “world” not “national” but I did learn that kangaroos can also be found in Papua New Guinea, so I guess “world” makes sense :). In a case of funny timing, Hugh and I had been commenting a few days before World Kangaroo Day about the volume of kangaroo roadkill that we see and that before we start taking driving trips, we should probably install bull bars on the front of the Outback. Kangaroos have not done well adapting to highway traffic.

All over the zoo they had these signs:

I am happy to report that we did not see any! When we were walking through the treed and grassy areas of the botanical gardens, we kept an eye out for snakes at all times but didn’t see any there either. Driving home, we saw a cat crossing the street and realized it was only the 2nd outdoor cat we’ve seen in the almost 6 months we’ve been here. I’m thinking that families prefer to keep their cats indoors when there is the potential of snakes around :).

After we left the zoo, we went out to Gracemere so that Hugh (a Capricorn) could stand on the Tropic of Capricorn:

Note the funky tree in the background – this is a Queensland Bottle Tree. Here are some interesting facts about the Tropic of Capricorn:

I don’t have any photos of the ponds this week. We did manage to find some excellent pond plants that were just $10 each at a store in Rockhampton, so that’s good. My friend Susann in St. Catharines let me know that lily pad plants are super expensive in Canada too, so I’m glad Hugh found the free source in the ditch :). Oh – we have seen the fish a couple times over the past week! One day Hugh saw the 3 orange ones and another day I saw 1 of the orange ones plus the white one. So we’re thinking they’re still alive! They came out to play when Hugh was adding some water to the pond and he’s wondering if they like the feel of a “current” so he’s going to try an adjustment to give them the feel of a current all the time. Otherwise, they seem to be hiding out in the cinder blocks supporting the bird bath.

I do have a photo of the peace lily in our shade garden that opened massive blooms this week:

Each flower is 8-10 inches long! They don’t look real, you’d swear it was a fake plant.

On Monday evening after work, Hugh and I went for a walk along one of the beaches. It was quite windy so we had some nice waves rolling in:


Last photo for this week. I woke up with a hot flash around 4:30 this morning and noticed the moon. My phone doesn’t take the best night photos, but here was my view at around 4:45am, about 20 minutes before sunrise in the opposite direction:

Around the same time I took this photo, my friend Laurie in Stoney Creek took an amazing photo of the moon on the horizon over Lake Ontario and it looked like the sun! It’s always when I’m looking at the moon that I feel a rush of love for all my friends and family back home, knowing that in spite of the distance, we’re all looking up at the same moon.

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