Muckle Fugga

Shetland is a group of islands located in the North Sea, North of Scotland and West of Norway. Unst, the most northerly populated island in Britain, is often known as the island above all others. Population: 600.

The Hermaness National Nature Reserve, up top Unst, has magnificent views during its walk in the high cliffs. This walk is also full of up close encounters with sea birds, especially the Great Skua (or Bonxie as the locals know it) as here is a breeding ground for them. These birds can be quite aggressive in breeding season, so sticking to the path is the best caution whilst walking.

Even further North than Unst is the Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, built on a pinnacle of rock in Oost (Out of Stack) that rises 61m above the sea, and is frequently overtopped by unbroken waves. This is Britain’s most northerly lighthouse. Three people manned this remote spot, ferried with supplies when they could.

The lighthouse was known originally as North Unst Lighthouse. In 1964 its name changed to Muckle Flugga — derived from the Old Norse for ‘large steep-sided island’.

Big paws and big teeth

Just a short drive from Narvik, the Gateway to the North, there is a park with generous-sized enclosures for a range of Arctic animals: bears, wolves, lynx, deer and elk: the Polar Park. An ideal place for all to learn about the native species, including of Norway’s only wild cat.

Four different types of medium cats are given the name of Lynx. Their coats of fur vary in colour according to their climate range. This Eurasian (or Siberian) lynx lives in Northern regions so their coats are thicker and lighter in colour (for camouflage). The Eurasian lynx has wide, harelike paws to help them skim through deep snow without sinking in: a handy characteristic this far up North the world.

Seeing what swims in the fjords

Visiting the northern islands of Lofoten includes the possibility to see a small but good aquarium; one of its highlights is be the feeding time for the seals and otters in their outdoor pools.

Storvågan is a little village west of Svolvær; established around 1800. It was one of Lofoten largest fishing villages. Now this little village hosts an aquarium that aims to show tourists the life hiding in the deep waters around Lofoten and the north of Norway. Oudoors there is a pool with 5 active seals: one male who was bought from another aquarium and four female, two of which were born in captivity. Everyday they are fed herring at noon. If you are lucky you can watch it and if you are really lucky you might be able to feed them a snack or two!

Over and under

The Busselton jetty is the longest wooden pylon jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. The jetty is constructed by massive pylons that are 150 years old. It is 1,841 metres (over a mile!) long and extends off out into Geographe Bay.

Construction of the jetty started in 1864 with an original length of 158m. Back then it was known as Vasse Jetty and it was the result of the boom for the local timber industry. Over the years, it was extended up to its current length in 1960. Commercial boats would load timber using the jetty as the bay is too shallow. The jetty was closed to commercial shipping in July 1972.

The jetty is home to over 300 marine species. In 2003, an observatory that descends to 8 metres (26’) under sea level was opened; without having to enter the water, tourists can enjoy the underwater views, see myriads of fish and divers, and learn about the jetty and the observatory itself. Regardless of the observatory, this is a great diving experience. As our guide described it, cuttle fish galore and swimming colour changing octopus! This site is often considered one of Australia’s top 10 dive sites and not being deep you get to enjoy it for a long time.

Photo taken by our DM from the DiveShed

Australia’s top predator

Five thousand years ago, whilst writing was being invented, Stonehenge being built and Egyptian dynasties rising, Dingos were being brought to Australia by Indonesian sailors. Dingos are Australia’s wild dogs, thought to be a descendant of (domesticated) dogs in Asia.

Whilst Dingoes are found through most of mainland Australia, they are absent from Tasmania. The biggest threat to dingoes are cross breeding with dogs. Reason why it is very common to see dingo-like dogs in Australian suburbs and truly pure dingoes are extremely rare. Except in Fraser island where dogs are not allowed into the island.

Dingoes are considered magic animals – they are Australia’s top predator, the equivalent of Africa’s lion, and thus dingoes are responsible for keeping Australian biodiversity intact. Dingoes are the only chance against introduced predators like feral cats and foxes. Once the dingo is gone, poisons are all that will be left against these intruders.

As the top predator of Australia, Dingoes help keep wallaby and kangaroo populations at bay as these marsupials constitute the majority of the diet of Dingoes. Being such an adaptive animal, dingoes are most active at dawn and dusk, when their prey is also active.

The two most common myths about dingoes and their counter facts are:

1. “Pure” dingoes don’t bark. Dingoes do bark, but not like domestic dogs. Dingoes’ barks are generally harsher, and given in short bursts. Only bark when alarmed.

2. “Pure” dingoes are all ginger. However, there is genetic evidence that dingoes’ coats can also be black, black and tan, black and white, or plain white.

If one would inadvertently come into close contact with a Dingo, one must defend themselves aggressively.

A pelican with eyelashes

Percy the big pelican is 41 years old this year. Built in 1977 it has lived a long life full of adventures; including capsizing in the Noosa River. After that near death experience, Percy got restored for over $10,000 and took 6 months to complete. It is now mounted on a trailer and is sometimes used for street parades. The pelican can rotate its head, blink its eyes, open and close its bill, flap its winds and even wiggle its tail, all controlled by a collection of levers, pulleys and ropes from within.

Nowadays parked in Noosaville in front of Pelican Boat Hire, by the river, serving if nothing else but a good reference point for morning runs or a landmark for locals.

Too big to be a rat, too small to be a wallaby

Bandicoots are small marsupials that have strong hind legs designed for jumping and sharp front paws to dig holes when it detects underground prey. Bandicoots then reach their meal with their long snout and use their pointed teeth to chomp through their prize. These opportunistic omnivores, are happy to eat pretty much anything, from insects, larvae, lizards, mice and snails, to fungi, grass seeds, berries and fruit. They ‘grunt’ happily when they’re munching their food, and make a shrill squeak when disturbed.

Just like in other marsupials, female bandicoots have a pouch. And like wombats, the pouch faces upside down to protect their offspring from the dirt when digging.

Bandicoots have the shortest pregnancy of all mammals (12 days). Like Koalas, baby bandicoots are very small and poorly developed at birth. After birth, they crawl toward the pouch, where they complete their development.

Bandicoots are a protected animal in all states of Australia. Of the 20 species of bandicoots in Australia, 7 are listed as critically endangered or already extinct. Introduced and native species, like foxes, dingos, large birds and feral and domestic cats and dogs are bandicoots predators.

Bandicoots play an important role in the ecosystem as they turn over soil, increasing the rate of leaf litter decomposition, soil production and nutrient cycling. They’re also critical in dispersing fungi spores, so losing bandicoots from ecosystems would have fatal cascading effects on plant diversity, species composition and structure of forests and woodlands in Australia and SouthEast Asia where they live.

[animalOfTheDay] – Buffalo

The buffalo is part of the big five. The big five were the most dangerous animals to hunt by foot.
Males can weight up to 1000 kgs. These ones have been lazing about as it has been really hot. They are only a hundred meters off our deck.

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Bonus AnimalOfTheDay is the Warthog, part of the ugly five.