Willie and Echidna, Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Headland @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Woody Head is undoubtedly one of my favourite camping spots in Northern New South Wales.

Low-tide boat launch @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

I can launch my kayak from here. Pristine beaches opt for pure serenity.

Posing goanna @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

And the wildlife is friendly and plentiful.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Busy @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

It comes to no surprise, that many other like-minded people return to this idyllic bay over and over again. This creates a certain busyness, which I try to avoid.

Back tracking @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Walking along the backtracks around Woody Head is a tranquil change to the ongoings around the camping area.

Scubburbia @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

I often noticed kangaroos appearing from the western woodlands, Woody Head’s scrubburbia.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Emerging @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

But this time, a mammal of a different kind made an appearance.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Scrubby @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

This spiky ball was moving ever so slowly, it could have been mistaken for a scrub in the wind.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Up close @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

It was a delightful surprise to see this charming echidna. They are in a league, almost on their own.

Eungalla National Park, Tropical Queensland, Australia
Platypus @ Eungalla National Park, Tropical Queensland, Australia

Their cousin, the platypus, is just a notch more unique. These are the only two mammals, that lay eggs.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Winter sun @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Both are winter specialists. As with 33 degrees Celsius body heat, the echidna is the second coolest mammal on our planet. Behind the platypus.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Long living @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Due to their slow metabolism, both species can live up to 50 years of age.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Greek mythology @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

The word ‘echidna’ derives from Greek mythology. She was half human and half spiky monster, a bit like ‘Medusa’.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Spiky Fur ball @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Echidnas live in Australia and Papua New Guinea only, what do the Greeks know?

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Careful movements @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

And the all-important questions, how do echidna reproduce?

Careful motion @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Very carefully!

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Nature pure @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

I haven’t seen an echidna in the natural world for years. I can’t even remember where and when that was. Echidna’s are observed more often during the daytime in the winter months. On chilly nights, it is more favourable to be rolled up and warm.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Warm rays @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

It was a cold night last night. Foraging for nutrition is rearranged to daylight hours. And this one was hungry.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Echidna at work @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Inch by inch, he scanned a grassy patch on the forest’s edge.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Monochrome @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

His sensitive snout is perfectly adapted to scour for small prey within the grassroots.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Elongated @Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

This elongated snout is perfectly designed to ‘sticky-beak’. It functions as mouth and nose at the same time.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Electronic sensors @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

On top of all that, the snout is equipped with electro-sensors. Just like the platypus.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Underwoodlum @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

The echidna’s foraging efforts makes them the gardeners of the Underwood. Who wood know?

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Sensitive @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

A long, sticky and rough tongue collect insects easily. Echidnas don’t have teeth and grind their food.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Diggers @Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Their powerful claws are built to dig.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Curved hind claws @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Their hind claws are curved and elongated to aid digging.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Camouflage @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Surprisingly is the fact, how well the spikes camouflage the echidna’s body.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Sharp spines in black and white @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

These sharp daggers defend perfectly from being eaten alive by larger carnivores.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Tick the box @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

But they don’t help being attacked by smaller suckers. A parasite had a full belly already.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Safe within spikes @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

This tick clung on within this spiky thicket, which controversially, was the safest position to be in.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Ants in pants @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

This echidna stumbled across an ants nest, a delicacy on their menu. Ants have a potent sting and won’t tolerate unwanted visitors. Defence and attack in numbers, no matter what size the intruder is.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Blindspot @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

At some stage, I thought that this echidna was blind in one eye.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Tired eyes @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Thankfully, the eyelids were closed and ‘only’ inflamed. This didn’t seem to bother him too much as he continued his quest to fill his belly. The echidna wasn’t the only hungry animal.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Allies @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

An unlikely ally joined the search for insects. Birds often rely on other animals to scare their food off.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
On the lookout @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

As did Willy and his waggy tail.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Got it @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Any insects fleeing from the echidna were picked up in the aerial display.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Positioning @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

It’s all about positioning. And timing.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Specialist @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Willy wagtails are aerial specialists, which can turn direction effortlessly in mid-flight. All thanks to a wagging tail.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Nature’s couriosities @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

And a spiky companion. Bless.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Wooden frame @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Once Echidna and Willy disappeared, another hungry participant emerged out of the lumber.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Surprise @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

I don’t know who was more surprised to see the other.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Shallow water specialist @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

White-faced egrets prefer to rummage in shallow waters like this stagnant pool.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

Dark, oily waters reflected the surrounding greens so well, that it was hard to differ.

Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia
Almost unnoticed @ Woody Head, Northern New South Wales, Australia

But no one else noticed.

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