The annual migration of red crabs on Christmas Island is one of the world's great wildlife spectacles - a moving sea of red as thousands of crabs march from their burrows in the jungle to the edge of the ocean to mate.
Almost as impressive as the migration are the innovative ways in which locals ensure that the majority of the endemic red crabs complete the migration unharmed. These include a network of extensive plastic fences which funnel the crabs under grids or over bridges to safely cross the road.
While our region doesn't have any migrations to rival that of Christmas Island's crabs, caring Canberrans have employed some nifty measures to protect our wildlife. Here are my Top 4.
Most Canberrans are aware of the moat which surrounds the Shine Dome. However, what many don't notice is that there is a little lip on the edge of the four-metre wide moat.
At first glance this lip might seem harmless, however it prevents ducklings from easily exiting the water. Unable to fly out of the water, for many years, sadly a number of ducklings never survived their first swim in the moat.
To prevent these annual fatalities, in 2010 maintenance staff cleverly conceived and installed two ramps, sympathetic to the heritage design of the Shine Dome, which allow the ducklings to successfully exit the moat.
Now every spring, the Shine Dome's venue manager Katie Little, whose office overlooks one of the ramps, has a front-row seat to watch the annual duckling antics.
"They are super cute, I like to think the same ducks that used the moat when they were ducklings are now showing their babies how to use the ramp," reports Little. "They seem to know exactly where to go."
Little isn't the only one enamoured by the annual spectacle. "Many of our guests comment about the ducklings, especially when using the ramp, it is a real treat to see it in action," she explains.
Want to check out the ducklings for yourself? You may have to wait a couple of weeks, for according to Little, "based on the past couple of years, the best time to see the ducklings on the ramp is late October".
If you do visit, don't forget to keep your distance so as not to scare the ducklings. Oh, and don't fall in the moat like a certain Akubra-clad columnist almost did when recently distracted by the actions of the ducks.
If you look closely, along a stretch of the Tuggeranong Parkway between Cotter Road and Sulwood Drive is a high wire fence.
Nicknamed 'The kangaroo fence', this barrier was installed by road authorities in 2016 "to reduce the harm to both motorists and wildlife (particularly kangaroos) on this high speed, high volume road".
Funded by the Australian government through the Federal Black Spot Program to the tune of $1.9 million, survey data suggests the fence, which runs almost the entire length of the boundaries of the Oakey Hill and Mount Taylor Nature Reserves, is working.
"A comparison of crash data before and after the fence was installed indicates there has been a 50 per cent reduction in reported crashes involving wildlife per year," reports an ACT Roads spokesperson.
Along an 800-metre section of Mulligans Flat Road in Forde are a number of metal grids which span five wildlife underpasses specially designed to allow critters to safely cross the road which dissects the Mulligans Flat and Little Mulligans Nature Reserves.
Not only were the grids strategically placed at key points where wildlife were likely to cross but they were also designed to allow light (even moonlight at night) into the culvert to entice native fauna to cross. They were also graded in such a way to ensure that wildlife didn't face too steep a drop at either side of the underpass and the wings were designed to shepherd in wildlife.
In 2012, a number of ponds were also created near the entrance to each crossing, as staging points to entice reptiles and amphibians to use the culverts and not cross the road.
While I'm not aware of any research that has examined the efficacy of the nifty crossings, the Canberra Ornithologists Group did report in January 2016 "a group of Fairy Martins [a member of the swallow family] flying into nests" in one of the underpasses.
Further afield, anyone who drives to Melbourne will have noticed a number of poles and rope bridges spanning the Hume Highway (M31) between Longwood in Victoria and Tarcutta in New South Wales.
Installed over the last decade, about 30 of these poles and bridges assist threatened marsupials such as squirrel gliders to cross the busy highway safely.
"It began slowly, with only a few gliders tentatively inspecting the structures during the first two years," reports Dr Kylie Soanes who completed a PhD on the wildlife crossings. "However, since then, both the rope bridges and glider poles have become popular, with motion-triggered cameras recording squirrel gliders crossing thousands of times.''
The cameras have also detected brushtail and ringtail possums, brush-tailed phascogales, and even a goanna using the structures to cross the freeway.
So are they working? "Our radio tracking work shows that more animals crossed the highway after the structures when compared with before, and when compared with sites that had no structures," reports Dr Soanes.
The structures have even improved the love life of some of the critters. "Our genetic work shows that the animals that cross the road using the structures often 'get lucky' on the other side, finding mates and having offspring that then go on to learn to use the structures."
A win-win for all involved.
Several readers including Jenny McLeod have noticed an ostrich lurking in a paddock on the Monaro Highway, along the Billilingra Straight (that long straight 5km section of bitumen between Bredbo and Cooma), and wonders about its origins.
In fact, in past years this column has received reports of not one, but two ostriches in the paddock on the western side of the busy highway, but this year all reports are of just a lone ostrich.
Many motorists look out for the ostrich on annual pilgrimages to the way to the snow. Nicky Darling admits to "getting a great kick out of seeing him every trip" and has even nicknamed him 'Bob'.
While your Akubra-clad columnist hasn't managed to track down the ostrich's current custodians, I'm reliably informed he already answers to another name, and no, it's not Bob.
"His name is actually George and he is the last survivor of a long-abandoned ostrich farm which was established here in the 1980s," reports Mat C whose late mother spent a lot of time at the property.
"After the ostrich farming enterprise failed, the owners at the time just decided to keep a few ostriches," explains Mat.
As to the whereabouts of George's companion, "sadly, he died about a year ago after getting caught in a fence and subsequently attacked by foxes," reveals Mat.
Oh dear, what a way to go.
Did You Know? In her book, The Road South (RNK Publications, 2005), Ruth McFadden reports that in March, 2000, a lone driver who crashed into a ditch beside the Billilingra Straight wasn't found for an incredible 10 days after the incident. Hidden from passing motorists by the dense foliage of a willow tree, it was only a chance sighting of the upturned vehicle by local farmer, David Coggin, which resulted in the driver's rescue. Immobilised following the crash, apparently he had survived for 10 days "by sucking on a small pillow soaked by rain". Remarkable.
More unusual stories of lost and found continue to lob into my inbox including one from Caroline Jardine of Nimmitabel who lost her keys at Broulee Beach. "About one year later we found them rusted and in the water within a few hundred metres of where we lost them," she remarks. Heck, what are the chances?
Contact Tim: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.
Clue: 'Stairway to hell'
Degree of difficulty: Tough
Last week: Congratulations to Stephanie Hutchinson of Reid who was the first reader to correctly identify last week's photo, sent in by Thomas Schulze of Kambah, as the Armillary Sphere Sundial at the top of Dairy Farmers Hill at the National Arboretum Canberra.
"We were there just last week with friends from London who were most impressed with the arboretum, the vision behind it, the fantastic views and the wonderful art installations such as the sundial," reports Stephanie who just beat Bill Thompson of Kambah and Brett Lamson of Page to the prize.
Meanwhile Greg Royle of Red Hill reports, "The sundial was created by Hendrik Forster, a Victorian artist, and is made from patinated brass and stainless steel", adding "it was a gift to Canberra on behalf of the people of Queanbeyan in 2013 to celebrate Canberra's Centenary and Queanbeyan's 175th birthday". Greg further reveals, "in 1987, the same artist created a similar sundial that is located at north-west corner terrace of Parliament Drive at New Parliament House."
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday September 28, 2019 will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.
This column is receiving lots of reports of curious critters enjoying the spring sunshine, including one from a Gungahlin postie who earlier this week had a close encounter with this echidna exploring a suburban front lawn. "He was a bit nervous and scurried under my bike," reports the anonymous letter dropper.
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