I was having a quiet Saturday night at home, with Mr Bebb at work and no plans of my own. I had just sat down to eat my dinner when the dogs started barking madly in the backyard. Sigh. I whistled. Called. Whistled again, expecting them to come barrelling through the pet door. Nothing. Cursing to myself, I put down my dinner and went outside, bare foot and annoyed. The barking seemed particularly frenzied and it's not like them to bark on and on like that for no reason. I couldn't see them but the barking was coming from the back corner of the backyard amongst the trees and bushes. Great. I hiked up there in my bare feet (our new house has a pretty big backyard), praying any jackjumpers stayed away from me, and pushed in amongst the bushes, getting scratched in the process and even more annoyed. The dogs didn't even look at me-usually if they get busted barking they act guilty- but instead were acting all 'spooked' about something, sniffing a bush and jumping back. I couldn't see anything and thought maybe it was a lizard, as the lady next door had mentioned that she got bluetongues in her yard. The mosquitos were eating me alive, so I retreated inside, shook the dog treat container and hey presto, they came inside (bribery is always good).
I sat back down to resume eating and two minutes later- yep, the barking started again! I may have cursed out loud this time as I stormed outside and back up to the bushes/trees. The dogs were barking and acting spooked at a different bush, and this time Pesto the cat was there as well, also acting very weirded out. I wriggled further into the bushes and finally saw what was going on. We had a vistor!
I have a soft spot for echidnas- while I was studying at Uni I worked as an animal keeper at a wildlife park and was one of the echidna keepers. I also used to take in injured or orphaned native animals and rear them/nurse them back to health (this was before I had dogs) and had a few echidnas. I loved caring for them and especially loved re-releasing them into the bush. So I was delighted to see this little guy turn up in my own backyard, though not so delighted that he was being harrassed by two canines and a feline. He (yes, it may have been a lady echidna but I'm saying 'he' for convenience) was dug in pretty tightly and the dogs and cat weren't actually touching him, but it can't have been pleasant being barked at. I grabbed the dogs and took them inside (carrying both at once- not easy!), locked them in and went back for the cat, who I also shut inside. No sign of Faye, the other cat, but as she tends to leap into the air, freak out and run away if you so much as pull a tissue out of a box in her immediate vicinity, I didn't think she'd be doing any harm to the echidna.
I went back up, sat down near the huddled spiky mound, snapped one photo and then put the camera down and stayed very still, and was presently rewarded by my little friend poking his head out. From experience I know they don't have the best eyesight and if you don't move they usually don't realise you are there. I sat still for about twenty minutes while the echidna, oblivious to my presence a mere two metres away, poked around in the bushes, ate some ants (yes! Pity he couldn't stay and be my resident anteater) and generally wandered about in a busy yet relaxed fashion. He was last seen disappearing under some thorny bushes next to the fence and from the sounds of it, starting to dig in earnest.
This isn't my little visitor from tonight, but is a photo I took of one of the echidnas I had the privilege of caring for. She was young, had been reared by hand and was extremely tame. She would crawl into my lap and push her beak into my hands (and sometimes ear or nose!) I still miss her.
Thank you for visiting tonight, Mr Echidna, and for letting me watch you, but I'd recommend you go on your way now, unless you want to be barked at/sniffed by a cat again. I donated blood to several mosquitos while I watched him, and my dinner went cold, but it was completely worth it.