Monday, September 20, 2010

Big Boy is Back

  
Well it's spring here in Australia and "love" is in the air.  Male eastern grey kangaroos are built for just one thing - mating!  One who favours Merrilyn, or perhaps Merrilyn favours him, I call "Big Boy".  I certainly favour him as he is the gentler of the two big males I've seen here in recent years. He is a big boy, I'd say around 60kg, (about 132 pounds) and stands around 2 metres in height. 

"Courtship" is a pretty torrid affair, (pardon the pun).  The male can hang around the female for around four days as she approaches oestrus and then attempts to mount are made over several days before mating actually occurs and this can last almost an hour. (Nothing fast about an eastern grey male!)  Needless to say this is all very tiring for the female and Merrilyn often comes back to the house to seek refuge.

Here an exhausted Merrilyn takes a break whilst "Big Boy" stands by, ensuring no other males can move in.
So how do I know this is the same male?

As you can see he has a distinctive tear in his right ear.  He may have been caught in a tree branch or on barbed wire as he ducked under a fence at some point.

Now this is an unusual mating as Merrilyn is carrying a pouch young.  It's still to small to have popped it's head out, but it's certainly alive as I have seen movement.  Usually females come back into oestrus about 11 days after the loss of pouch young, though mating with pouch young does sometimes occur (clearly).  The miracle of the kangaroo is that this new joey will only develop so far and will then stay dormant until the current pouch joey leaves the pouch totally at about 11 months of age.

So joey number 7 is in the pouch and joey number 8 is being created.  Rocky, (joey 6) is being weaned now.  She's been out of the pouch totally for quite a few months and they only receive milk until they are around 18 months old.  As she approaches Merrilyn, hoping for a feed, you can hear Merrilyn's low growl - a very dog like noise, warning her off.  It's sad, but a part of life and now is a good time to be weaned as the warming weather and spring rains are bringing a good supply of fresh grass to the area.

It's also the time of the giant flies!  These marsh flies, as they are known here, suck blood from their hosts.  They'll certainly try for humans, but they are slow to move so if you are brave enough to let them land, you can easily swat them before they inflict any pain.  They love kangaroo tails and they provide a great feed for the birds and their new born chicks.  Here a blue-faced honey eater comes in to grab one from Big Boy's tail.  You can see three flies very clearly in this photo and Big Boy has rolled his tail in some mud in the hope of keeping them at bay.  So although the flies are a nuisance to us, they are a valuable food source for the birds.  Gotta love nature, it all has a place! 


5 comments:

  1. Love the photos, have never seen little Blue Wrens picking off the flies like that before!
    Good luck to Merrilyn and her joeys :)

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  2. Poor Merrilyn, she's been busy! No wonder she needs some peace and quiet at your place! Very interesting and I love hearing about your wildlife...and it's nice that spring is there! I love the fall that we are just getting into..but then the snow will fly...as you said, "gotta love nature"

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  3. It's so nice to have you back. Big Boy is beautiful and this story is amazing. That you have all this to witness makes me envious.

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