21st April 2019
Some people dream of travelling overseas, expensive holidays & new cars, but for me, the top of my list (bucket list, if i dare to call it that) has been for as long as I can remember, to see a platypus in the wild. Some people may think that it is a simple wish, and when I’ve told people before- they can hardly believe that I have never seen one, yes me the wildlife warrior who spends most of my spare time with animals- researching, observing and caring for them, and I am forced to listen to stories of city slickers who have no interest in wildlife or the natural environment, tell me their incredible chance sighting stories of all the times they have seen a platypus in the wild!
So why the platypus? I guess it probably all started a long time ago with my family tree research and readings of David Fleay’s work. Over many years I have collected all of his books and writings and read whatever I could in awe of his knowledge through research and experiences during his whole life. Of course David Fleay was the first person to breed the platypus in the wild and his work is still very relevant today- in fact in many Australian species. During reading about his experiences with the elusive platypus I become more and more interested in this rarely seen secretive species- so much so that over the last 9 years and since we purchased our camper trailer- our family camping trip locations have been chosen around whether or not there were possibility of platypus sightings there!
Many many trips I arose early in the morning, wearing camouflaged colours and walked on foot to perch on the side of a creek bank, sometimes in freezing temperatures and keep watch out for any evidence or ripple in the water without a glimmer of a sighing. Often after spending hours looking silently - I would return to camp and hear stories from other campers how they had just seen a platypus! While frustrated I would always resign myself to the fact that it was wonderful that someone had at least seen them to know that they were still on the area and were surviving, although I did feel a tad jealous, especially when they passed the sighting off as a common thing that one sees!!! Not this one anyway!
|Platypus Day 1, Smithlea/Texas Qld NSW Border, Easter April 2019. Photo by Judi Gray|
Some of the locations I have visited in search of platypus often on various occasions, (where there are confirmed sightings) include from memory, Jenolan Caves, Paluma, Texas, Rathdowney, Goomburra, Main Range National Park, Queen Mary Falls, Sundown National Park, Yarraman, Murphy’s Creek, Ballard, Goondiwindi, Ravensbourne, Bald Creek Crows Nest, Crows Nest National Park, Cooyar, Coomera, Highfields, Geham, Pilton, Cullendore, and whole heap of places I can’t remember off the top of my head! I have to say though that we have not made the effort to visit the two most well.known places to see platypus in the wild, being Canarvon Gorge in western qld and Eungella National Park near Mackay although both places are on our wish list to go to.
All this time, I have been joined in this journey with my husband- and often our children as well- all equally keen to see one in the wild. In September 2014 we spent our camping holiday at Rathdowney in south-east qld, I chose this spot as I have done the others- because of the reports of platypus sightings. Each morning and evening I spent time searching the water for any movement without success... then it happened.... Brendon went for a mid-afternoon kayak down the creek and while he was just sitting in the kayak- a platypus popped up next to him for a few seconds and then duck dived under the water not to be seen again. It was so quick that there was no time for a photo and on returning to camp, I think he was nervous to tell me knowing I would be happy but envious at the same time as he had gotten to experience seeing one without me. It was truly wonderful as there hadn’t been a sighting there for a long time- I started to believe our bad luck was changing.
How wrong I was, as that was almost 5 years ago and we have many trips to platypus spots since then. Year after year we continued to miss out on seeing platypus, all the while hearing about others sightings and recording them for my work as the President of Wildlife Qld Toowoomba Branch. I’ve researched locations and sightings and been given information from people who’ve never told anyone their stories as they have wanted to protect the platypus location to ensure its survival. Private property owners have told me fabulous stories of their observations and of also seeing baby platypus- of which I am just in awe.
|Platypus Day 1, Smithlea/Texas Qld NSW Border, Easter April 2019, Judi Gray|
After I had taken a couple of photos that I thought would be reasonable - I decided to head back to camp as quickly as possible to get Brendon and the kids. I ran as fast as possible in crappy plastic crocs camping shoes and Brendon spotted me running towards the camp and yelled out “what are you running for?” Laughing at the same time as probably how awkward I looked ambling along the sheep track in crocs and with my big camera lens around my neck. I yelled out for them up come quickly all while trying to get the words out that I had seen a platypus- I think Brendon questioned what I was saying but at the same time I burst into tears of utter joy all while trying to repeat to Brendon and my son Cam to hurry up and come straight away! They instantly knew I was serious with my reaction and off we all went. I took them to the last spot I’d seen it but despite waiting for a long time we figured it was too late now in the morning with the sun well and truly up, and it must have gone back into hiding. Just as we started to walk back, I turned my head back and spotted him emerged near a branch in the water, he promptly duck dived under but before long appeared again in another spot and to my utter joy they were both able to see it. Brendon headed back to camp to get our daughter so she could see it also.
|Platypus on Day 2, Smithlea Texas, NSW Qld Border, April 2019. Photo by Judi Gray|
I have compiled some of the video taken over the two mornings below:
Judi Gray at Smithlea NSW.
Easter, April 2019