Built ecosystems are not devoid of wildlife but are home to a vibrant community of nature’s little helpers. Knowing where to look and what signs to look for, illuminate a world teeming with life and inspiration.

In ‘Australian Wildlife On Your Doorstep’, travel writer and photographer, Stephanie Jackson reveals the secrets of discovering nature close to home. A book and guide to seeing wildlife where you are, no travel required. Stephanie’s colourful photos showcase a cast of characters both curious and fascinating—enticing you to take a second look under a fallen leaf or glance more closely at your neighbour’s lawn.

Almost 100 species of wildlife are shown in their natural habitat, and the book provides not only details of the lifestyle of each species, but also information on how to attract wildlife to a garden, and fascinating and little-known facts about these remarkable creatures. 

A Photograher’s Garden

Join Stephanie as she explores her garden, a place of little wonders…

My extensive garden is home to many species of birds that, as they go about their daily lives, feeding, bathing, building nests and raising their families, are relatively obliging photographic subjects, but I routinely search for less conspicuous wild creatures that, being well-camouflaged among the dense vegetation, can only be discovered with patience and keen eyesight.

It’s insects and spiders that are frequently the focus of my attention, but not everyone echoes my positive emotions regarding these diminutive members of the garden’s wildlife community. Many species are either feared or despised, but the fact that some can cause considerable damage to plants while others have the ability to inflict a painful sting or bite is not a genuine reason to destroy even one of these tiny creatures by stomping on it or eradicating it with a blast of insecticide, for they’re all nature’s invaluable little helpers and should be treated with caution rather than aggression. They’re the unsung heroes of the natural world that are diligently yet unobtrusively working to maintain a balanced and healthy ecosystem, and all have a vital role to play, particularly in an organic garden such as mine. 

Assassin bug nymph (Pristhesancus plagipennis) on a zinnia flower. © Stephanie Jackson

Approximately 2,000 species of spiders and many thousands of species of insects call Australia home, and it’s a staggering fact that there are twice as many species of insects in the world as there are all other animal species combined. Insects were the first creatures to fly through the skies more than 100 million years ago, and they have colonised almost very environment on the planet. Their population in little more than two square kilometres of rural land exceeds that of the entire human population of the earth, and both they and spiders owe their astounding success to a range of highly refined senses that humans can only dream of with envy. 

It’s the diversity and the unquestionable beauty of these diminutive creatures that inspires me to seek them out and attempt to capture the images of those that are my allies as I work to create and maintain a refuge for wildlife large and small.

Black banded hover fly (Episyrphus species) capturing pollen. © Stephanie Jackson
Black banded hover fly (Episyrphus species) capturing pollen. © Stephanie Jackson

The secretive warriors that are never far beyond my doorstep include beetles that chew and gnaw at their prey, and bugs that pierce each victim with a needle-sharp proboscis, injecting it with an enzyme that liquefies its internal organs that are then sucked up like some gruesome cocktail. There are predatory wasps that provide their larvae with a feast of succulent caterpillars, and elegant hover flies that, with huge eyes comprised of many thousands of individual lenses, have a 360 degree view of the world around them, and these agile insects reward the flowers that generously provide them with a feast of nectar by performing the important act of pollination. 

Among the most versatile of nature’s battalions of wildlife warriors are the spiders, many of which are fast and efficient hunters while others trap their prey with the use of webs and other ingenious techniques that utilise the silken thread that all spiders produce.

Green jumping spider (Mopsus mormon) resting on a rose leaf. © Stephanie Jackson
Green jumping spider (Mopsus mormon) resting on a rose leaf. © Stephanie Jackson

My garden is a battlefield where life is always under threat and where death is never far away, and as the protagonists play out the roles that Mother Nature has ordained for their species I remain in awe of the diversity, complexity and savage beauty of the tiny creatures that are highly valued members of the wildlife community that inhabits my tranquil world.

About the Author: For almost 25 years Stephanie Jackson’s work as a freelance travel writer and photographer has revolved around her passion for wildlife and has taken her on extensive journeys around Australia. Her images have been published in newspapers, books, magazines, calendars, and used by Australian tourism. Find her @ photographsofaustralia.com

Australian Wildlife On Your Doorstep (New Holland Publishers, 2019) RRP $39.99 available from all good book retailers or online www.newhollandpublishers.com
Australian Wildlife On Your Doorstep (New Holland Publishers, 2019) RRP $39.99 available from all good book retailers or online www.newhollandpublishers.com
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.