How to spend an afternoon with an echidna...

Long shot of an echidna

   
Echidna pokes

How do you find them?

Well, actually, you don't. But they sometimes find you.

The first sign that one might be close by is the presence of the holes they dig in the ground, which are pretty numerous around the park. If the holes are crisp and all the earth around them is damp, you may be looking at a recent dig.

And how do you know it's an echidna hole you are looking at, you ask? Look for numerous nose shaped impressions in them, like the one you can see in this pictur
e.

If you do come across some fresh diggings, the next thing to do is just listen. For an animal which is as sensitive to noise as an Echidna, they make a surprising amount of noise themselves.



So if you get to hear something that's literally crashing around though the bush, then the chances are the next thing you'll see is something like this:

At this stage the echidna is digging, and on the left we can see its previous efforts.

Who, me?  An echidna being quiet.


Echidna  rolled up for protection
What happens next is very much up to you. They might not be quiet, but you should be. If you want a bit of a closer look, approach slowly from down wind. If you disturb them too much, they will simply dig down, shut up shop and not do much at all for long after you have lost patience and left.
The first thing quiet folk will notice is that they have a taste for meat ants.

But they don't waste much energy getting them. They'll often just poke their noses straight down into the dirt, with no digging at all, and then take vigorous sniffs of what's below.

...with an occasional sneezing noise too.

Echidna with its nose driving down

A quick scratch

If they are satisfied there are some delicious ants to be had, then they begin to dig -not particularly quickly, but with great force. Their digging is as powerful as you would expect from looking at their claws. I get the impression that the ants ensure the echidna doesn't quite get things all its own way - as evidenced by the occasional pause from digging to scratch. A bite or two, perhaps?

And so, after putting on a fine display of power digging and ant eating, it's time for our friend to move off and annoy some more ants a little further on.

And you can get to see all this, just so long as you stay quiet, and don't intrude too much on the show.

Moving off

While the meat ants are left to wonder what on earth happened.


Meat ants


For more information about echidnas, visit http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/echidnas.htm

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