It was a beautiful afternoon settling into my position on the bank of the great Murrumbidgee River to be part of the annual Platypus and Water Rat survey on Scottsdale Reserve in New South Wales.
The location was ideal, peaceful and serene with the only sounds coming from the water rushing over the mighty falls on its way downstream and to new beginnings, with the occasional birds making their majestic calls. It was the ideal place to clear my thoughts and truly connect with the river and surrounding nature.
As the survey progressed, I could hear a rustling sound coming from my right. Fearing my life may be in danger from being attacked by a wild and ferocious beast, I slowly turned my head but could see nothing.
"Maybe it was the wind", I said to myself (or maybe it was something more sinister lurking in the vegetation ready to pounce on me at a moment’s notice).
Settling back to my post I thrust my eyes on the river again, surveying every detail to not miss a chance of seeing the illusive Platypus and Water rats. The sound of the water rushing over the falls with a mighty force again soothed my soul and allowed me to regain my composure.
Suddenly my attention was drawn to the sounds of rustling again to my right. I slowly turned my head, this time with purpose as I knew the unknown beast was now nearer and a possible threat to my wellbeing or existence. My heart was racing with excitement and fear of the unknown and I knew that with courage I would face whatever was before me.
As my eyes slowly surveyed the vegetation, there he was with his piercing eyes looking straight at me trying to decide if I was a friend or foe. Our eyes now connected, not wide open and fearful but with love, affection and friendship. It was clear that the beast and I posed no threat to each other so with a smile and a nod we went back to doing what we were there for.
I called my new friend 'Ernie'. He was beautiful, big and blessed me with his companionship for about 20 minutes until he bid me farewell continuing his journey.
Ernie has forever enriched my life as it was the first time I had ever seen such a magnificent creature in the wild and on Scottsdale. It clearly was “A Special Moment in Time”.
Who was Ernie I hear you ask? A local echidna.
Did you know that Echidnas, sometimes known as spiny anteaters, belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. The four extant species of Echidnas and the platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs and the only surviving members of the order Monotremata.