I love the Otways. I visit Apollo Bay frequently and have spent hours searching for uncommon birds in the area. I had been able to piece together information about the local area by scouring information centres and taking multiple field guides on each trip. This took a lot of effort and meant that I had to rely on anecdotal evidence when seeking information.
This book is separated into five different chapters, however their are three that really stand out.
Otways And Shipwreck coast habitats
This chapter is one of my favourite sections, even if it only lasts 22 pages. Palmer briefly explores each type of habitat and shares both the highlights and commonly encountered wildlife. Each description is accompanied by a map and a photo that represents the environment. The descriptions and images take up roughly one page. Some may find that this information is too brief. It is useful as background information but may still leave you looking up other resources. I didn’t mind the brevity and believe that it is the perfect length for a beginner.
The species accounts take up the majority of the book at 160 pages. Each page features two species with information about identifiable features, habitat preference and the best locations to find them. This is where the book really shines. I was aware of the diversity of wildlife in the area and was familiar with most of the featured species. I still learned a lot. There are sections dedicated to birds, frogs, mammals, reptiles and introduced species.
These profiles stand out because the information is explicitly targeted towards Otways and Shipwreck coast. Some of the profiles narrow down the locations to incredibly specific areas, such as reserves or dams. This saves a lot of research time. It is also fun to flick through and just learn about new species. Did you know that there is a skink that can be found 50 metres about ground? I’m not much of a herper, but this book has gotten me interested in tracking down some new species.
The bird section was pretty impressive. I’m primarily a birdwatcher and have become pretty familiar with the birds in the Otways. I have seen most of them and understand their favourite habitats. I was concerned that this would impact the enjoyment of the book, as the bird section takes up over 107 pages. I was still able to pick up little bits of new information, such as how a robins range changes with new seasons.
Key Wildlife Viewing Spots
This chapter ‘profiles representative examples of the diversity of wildlife habitats that offer excellent opportunities to encounter a wealth of wildlife.’ 14 local areas are covered, with 3-4 pages for each area. Each section gives a brief overview of the area, talks about the key species you can find and recommends the best place to visit in each area.
This section is useful but it a bit of a let down. The spots listed tend to cover largish areas, which can result in first time visitors being overwhelmed. Palmer does list the best way to encounter wildlife in these areas but is limited to a couple of paragraphs. This chapter is useful for narrowing information down but does lead to some trial and error for beginner naturalists.
Additionally, many smaller locations were overlooked. This is understandable, considering the book is nearly 300 pages long. I’d recommend seeing this chapter as a starting point.
Do I recommend it?
Yes! I was surprised at how much I was able to learn. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about various Otway ecosystems and thought I was pretty knowledgeable. I’m surprisingly happy to be proven wrong. I’ll be taking the book with me on future trips and will plan specific trips around finding specific mammals and reptiles. I believe this book is a fantastic resource for any naturalist. I’d primarily recommend it to those at the beginner-intermediate level.
Those who have lived in the region for some time or who are involved in naturalist groups may not get as much out of it. In these situations, it may not be worth the financial investment. It depends how far they have explored different environments and townships in the region. I was initially worried that my familiarity with the area would mean that I wouldn’t get that much out of the book. I’m so happy to be wrong. I may have explored multiple environments close to Geelong and Apollo Bay, however, those locations represent a fraction of the Otways/Shipwreck Coast area. I got a lot out of this book and will be referencing it a lot.