by Jessica Lawrence
Seeing wild animals is exciting and fascinating, but it can take practice spotting them. The key is to slow down and move quietly (unless you are near long grass, when you need to be noisier to warn snakes of your movements).
If you pause between steps, watch and listen, you can sometimes see and hear animals moving about, especially in national parks and bushland.
The most effective way to walk quietly is to ‘fox walk’: step so the outside of your foot touches the ground first, then roll your foot inward until it is flat on the ground. Or start on your toes, rather than your whole foot or heels.
Observing from a different viewpoint is also valuable. Stand on your tiptoes or squat on your haunches, look up, look behind you – viewing at your surroundings from a different height can reveal animals we don’t tend to make eye contact with.
A simple eye exercise can also help you become more observant of wildlife – simply shift your focus from close-up objects to those in the distance. You will start to notice more insects, lizards and frogs, along with different birds in the trees or flying across the horizon.
Remember to become more attuned to your peripheral vision for movement, and binoculars are also useful when watching for wildlife.
Another tip is to study the characteristics and patterns of animals you will be looking for. What is their body shape? Their colour? How do they move or smell? What do they eat? What sounds do they make? Do they have a favourite time of day to travel, or a preferred landscape to settle?
If you learn an animal’s key features, you will be more attuned to spotting them in the wild, as you will have a strong ‘search image’ embedded in your memory.
A fun thing to do, once you start observing animals, is noticing the differences between them. No two possums are the same, or kookaburras, or frogs – their personalities are all different!
Perhaps carry a notebook, so you can record your observations and interactions, draw sketches, and even write creatively about the animals and their character traits.
It’s a lovely way to remember your wildlife experiences in nature.