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Nature Talk, February 16th 2022: Australia

The cancellation of our advertised speaker 24 hours before the event led to some concern. How would we fill our evening prior to the AGM taking place at 8.25p.m. Then,  Dr. Jeff Skevington generously offered to fill in and speak about his recent trip to Australia.  He is an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University and a research scientist with the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  He is also President of the Ontario Field Ornithologists.

Jeff had travelled with his wife and son for two months in December of 2022 and January 2023. They travelled by car, sometimes staying in very well-equipped campgrounds and sometimes bush camping. His presentation covered the portion of their trip in the Outback and while it is hot, arid and a challenge to get around, he demonstrated that it is extremely beautiful, and unique. He showed photos of the countryside and the spectacular birds and other creatures they found there.  We were enthralled with the many excellent close-ups of parrots (there are over 50 species of parrots in Australia), budgies, wrens, finches and other birds.  Often the wildlife is quite tame and can be hand-fed.  He also showed pictures, and explained sightings,  of platypus, echidna, bats, possums, turtles, frogs, lizards, spiders, dragonflies, butterflies, a rare flower fly, grasshoppers, skinks, snakes, terrestrial leeches, mushrooms, trees, plants and a kangaroo.

We also learned that Australia has “lots of things that will hurt you”, including the Giant Stinging Tree and seven of the ten most venomous snakes in the world.  Jeff pointed out that travelling in Australia in the height of summer is “not for the faint of heart”.  It is a land of extremes with droughts, fires, storms and flooding. While travelling in the Outback It is necessary to be flexible and well-prepared with plenty of food and water.

Instead of a disaster our evening turned out to be a truly memorable experience. We’re so pleased that Jeff made this special trip and shared it with us.

Contributed by Chris Baburek

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