One of the things that we can never predict from one day to the next is what manner of local fauna will have visited overnight or might visit our yard during the day. As it was with our Christmas Koalas, we always have to expect the unexpected and we’ve had an unusual influx of Galahs, Corellas as well, I suspect possibly due to the East Gippsland fires and the wafting smoke. And one regular visitor, or perhaps a group of visitors over the years, has been our local Echidna (link has an old, but fascinating, video about Echidnas). I’m not sure how many inhabit the surrounding bush, but I suspect that there are at least two that call this area their home. So early in the first week of January, as we were about to let our hound out for his nightly business, an Echidna was spotted fossicking about just below our veranda. I observed it for a short while and then decided to video its movements, as I didn’t have much video footage of this weird and interesting creature. It was also partly due to the smoke from the East Gippsland fires that made it easier to approach this Echidna from close range.
We will often find in the morning that the embankments next to our neighbour’s property and below our veranda have been dug out overnight, with multiple holes throughout. These are always clear indications that an Echidna has been about at night or late afternoon/early morning foraging for insects. As I’ve noted before, if one of these Echidnas is about during the day our hounds would have raised the dead with their barking, warning us of this terrifying creature roaming about in the vicinity. The Echidna is a adept digger and even in the hardest of soils, can burrow in without obvious effort. The Echidna does have some substantial claws to help with the digging and, when disturbed, can burrow down into the ground with surprising speed. I’ve watch one Echidna burrow down in a matter of seconds, such that the body is almost completely buried. That said, the soil where this Echidna was fossicking is quite hard, so it was amazing watch how easily it could drive its nose into the ground in search of bugs and ants.
While the Echidna is supposed to have poor eyesight, it will react to movement, especially if it’s sudden changes in light and shade. Though according to research the eyes have good low-light vision. With the smoke that was about, there were no shadows whatsoever, so the Echidna didn’t react to any of my movements and so I was able to get quite close to film. In fact I was able to get very close indeed, something that has not been possible unless I’ve kept entirely still and it was moving in my direction. And surprisingly, this Echidna was out and about almost at the same time when I previously wrote about the critters in 2016. One thing that Echidnas will react to are vibrations, so I did have to tread carefully and not stomp about near its path. I thought that the crunching of leaves might cause it some concern, but it didn’t appear to notice these sounds at all, or if it did, they weren’t an issue.
While the Echidna appears to be clumsy when moving about, this belies its abilities to clamber up some quite steep embankments and cross over rough terrain. And it can also move about surprisingly fast. So I had to be fairly nimble with my heavy camera gear as the Echidna went from one location in the garden to another. Sometimes I was able to get low angle shots and at other times shots from directly above. I was most surprised at how easily I was able to get the overhead shots, though it wasn’t easy to keep the camera still as I pointed it directly down. The accompanying video shows these aspects far better than still shots. I have no idea whether the Echidna’s movements were random or followed a set path. I do know that the Echidna tends to come from one side of the property and usually moves across to the other, but in this case it did quite a number of detours moving up and down as well as across before crossing the property.
Anyway, once it had travelled most of the way across our property, it came to a sudden halt, possibly because I had stomped a bit too heavily. However, I was pretty much done at this point in any case, so I decided to call it a day and put away the camera. I went back a few minutes later after putting away the camera and the Echidna was gone, off for more adventure and food in the neighbouring property I presume. The next morning our hound discovered the scent of the Echidna and studiously followed the exact path taken by the Echidna the previous day. I’m always amazed at how dogs are able to do this and would love to know exactly what they sense.