There is no shortage of wildlife on campus here in Townsville. The Wet Tropics region begins just North of here and is considered a key biodiversity hotspot of the world. So it is no surprise that the James Cook University in Townsville has amazing wildlife diversity.
To start my day, I hear the cacophony of birds outside my dorm window. They are so incredibly loud and they sound like they’re screaming, not singing. As I learned in my Biodiversity of Tropical Australia class, songbirds originated in Gondwana, of which Australia was a part and so the birds here have especially old lineages and they don’t have the pleasant “singing” voices like the birds back home do. There are also many nectar feeders so the birds here often use their voices to deter other birds from their sources.
This bird is called a kookaburra, they sound like monkeys
As I walk around campus, especially past the cricket field, I see wallabies! They’re usually hanging out and feeding on the grass. They are a species very similar to kangaroos but are generally smaller. You can always tell an Aussie and an international student apart because an Aussie will walk right past them without a second look but an international always stops to admire them or take pictures. Wallabies and kangaroos are as common as deer back in the US.
Seeing these guys never gets old for me
For more than half my time here, it’s been swooping season, which is when certain birds become extremely territorial during their mating season and will dive bomb any human who gets too close to them or their trees. They especially dislike bikers so many bikers will wear spikes on their helmets to try and keep them away. Surprisingly, the animal that puts the most people in the hospital in Australia is not a snake, spider or crocodile but is a bird called a Magpie who is notorious for swooping. I never saw a single snake on campus but there were a few times that my adrenalin was pumping for a bird.
When I come back to my room at night, which is on the third floor, there are many geckos on the ceiling and walls outside. My next door neighbor and I have theorized that they prefer the top floor because it’s like being up in a tree. Sometimes we try to catch them but they’re always too quick for us.
You can see that the gecko in at the top of the picture had dropped its tail
It’s fascinating to notice that most every tree and animal is completely different to what I have back home. Even the trees and animals that are really common where I’m from are totally absent. It actually makes me appreciate the deer and the chipmunks that wreak havoc on my suburban backyard because they have all evolved to suit their environment in a certain part of the world.
It has been really interesting to be surrounded by the species I’ve been learning about in my Biodiversity of Tropical Australia class. Sometimes in class they would go into the particular species on campus of a particular group like birds, snakes and mammals to name a few. Often I would already know that something was on campus but a few times when I didn’t, it made me keep my eyes peeled and usually I would eventually spot that species. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to feel immersed in the content of one of my classes in this way and I know this genuine experience will really stick with me going forwards and coming back to Colby.