Rock-wallabies of the Wheatbelt and Frogs that go hoot!

I had been planning for a while to take my 4 year old son Liam to see Black-flanked Rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) in the wheatbelt.  My friend Jimmy had seen them about a month ago – so I had good information that it would be ok to take my son.  Also Jimmy was game to join us – its a 2.5hr drive each way with some walking in the reserve and then rock clambering.  My son was so excited to come – he had been asking only days prior if we were going to see rock-wallabies!

Our destination was Mount Caroline Nature Reserve – one of about half a dozen sites where the rock-wallaby can be found in the wheatbelt.  The rocky outcrops where they live are surrounded by crop fields, so they have become islands in a desert of habitat.  They can also be found in a number of locations across WA and also SA/NT in the central region.

We left at noon, taking a lunch break in York.  We then drove the rest of the way arriving about 3pm, parked up and walked into a habitat corridor that joins the reserve with Gardner Rd.

I had to carry Liam some of the way but once we hit the rocky outcrop he was off and away!  We soon spotted Ornate crevice dragons (Ctenophorus ornatus) scurrying quickly on the rocks.  It was a day with some cloud cover so we hoped the wallabies might be out a little earlier than dusk.

Ornate crevice dragon @ Mt Caroline NR

The rocks had amazing structures – with lots of erosion seen on the boulders and rock-wallaby scat seen inside the caves.

Granite boulder @ Mt Caroline NR

We walked to the top of the rock advising Liam that he needed to be quiet – but he was also very excited!  He threw little rocks off the top even after we said it would scare the wallabies away.  Jimmy did a little recce in front and sighted a Euro (Macropus robustus) dashing off into cover, out of view.  I didn’t see it and the outcrop is classic habitat for them, but not often seen.

Liam with Jimmy @ Mt Caroline NR

Liam was super confident on the rocks but, as his Dad, he had me a little worried….. he clambered everywhere with no fear!  As we got to the top of the rocks and peaked over the Western face we saw our first wallaby dash away – too quick for a photo.  We then saw another jump away and sit on a rock a ways off.  Liam saw this one and was very pleased!

Black-flanked rock-wallaby @ Mt Caroline NR

Jimmy spotted 3 wallabies just over the drop at a feeding station which must be maintained by DBCA (old DPAW) but they had scattered by the time Liam & I got into a viewing location.

Feeding station @ Mt Caroline NR

We started to see more wallabies as it got closer to sunset.  They can be quite skittish and you need to be quiet and not make sudden movements.  The animals know every cave and crevice and can disappear in an instant.

Liam really enjoyed himself – but see the fly net – there were plenty of flies around!  He  also enjoyed pointing out scat in amongst the rocks.

I was finding it a little hard to take photos while keeping Liam safe on the rocks so Jimmy kindly looked after him while I went for a solo explore.  They clambered up a big boulder and chilled.

I had some lovely views of a red-capped robin and grey butcherbird calling.

The sun was beginning to set and it was a lovely view from the top of the rock.

Sunset @ Mt Caroline NR

I then spotted a rock-wallaby sitting on really steep rock face – just glued to the side of the rock.

Black-flanked rock-wallaby @ Mt Caroline NR

Their feet and paws are ideal for gaining grip on the granite rock faces.  The below photo series shows just how dexterous they are.

The light was beginning to fade so we headed back towards the car.  Hard to say how many wallabies were sighted as they may have been repeats – I guess maybe 5-8 perhaps?

Mt Caroline NR from the West

On the way out we could see that the wallabies do get away from the rock and head into the farmers crop by the tracks under one of the fences.

Rock-wallaby tracks under a fence @ Mt Caroline NR

We got back and the light was dropping rapidly – we had a quick picnic dinner and started to head for home.  We had half a plan if it rained to see if we could find some frogs in Chidlow and Liam was keen.  The weather was coming in and we drove through a few rain bands – so that was promising for frogs.  Jimmy had seen Hooting frogs (Heleioporus barycragus) in Avonholme Circle, Chidlow during April (previously after rain).

This was one of my target species for the year so we took the opportunity.  We walked along the dry river bed but no calling was heard – it took about 10mins but we soon picked up the first frog by eyeshine in the spotlight and then found another.

We also found a couple of Western Banjo or Pobblebonk frogs (Limnodynastes dorsalis) – they are recognisable by their central vertebral line and red colouration around the thigh area.

We then found a third Hooting frog which was the most attractive of the 3 found – solid front legs and diagnostic yellow colouration on the flanks.

Hooting frog @ Chidlow

Finally it was time to head for home, getting back at 10:30pm – way too late for a 4 year old – but an amazing adventure for all!  So many new things for Liam, a new frog for me and Jimmy with the patience of a saint to allow me to bring my son!

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Queens Park Bushland Night Stalk

I joined up with the Friends of Queens Park Bushland to go on one of their night stalks.  Sian, the organiser wasn’t sure if it would just be a couple of people.  It ended up being a rainy day that cleared later in the afternoon and there were maybe 12-15 people who joined.  I got there late after getting the kids in bed. I came with my friend Hodgey.

The Queens Park bushland is a number of reserves about 36 hectares in total with a number of different habitats.  The group has done a huge amount of work re-vegetating, weeding, surveying and even constructed a wetland where an old drain used to be.

When we got there the bigger group was already spotlighting and we looked at what had been attracted to a light trap that had been set up.  The trap was simple enough – a tall clothes airer draped with a fine white mesh with a UV light inside.  All the local bugs flocked to it!

I am not so great on my bugs – but the community at iNaturalist have been helping me get some ID’s – see all my observations from that night.

The group came back and enjoyed drinks and fruit mince pies – the night stalks are really well organised and I encourage you to to go to one.  Join up the mailing list to find out when the next one is on – or you can ask me 🙂

A few of the group stayed on for more spotlighting and we headed out – 6 in all.  Almost immediately I spotted a Southwest Spiny-tailed Gecko.

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This was a much paler specimen from the one I found with my bro Joel a few weeks back.  The eyes are so amazing.

The reserve doesn’t have many large animals but it does have really cool invertebrates as above.

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Moaning Frog

This moaning frog just sitting on the side of the track.

We disturbed a Collared Sparrowhawk from a tree near the path but was able to get this shot when it landed nearby – a lifer for me!

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Collared Sparrowhawk

Sian showed us this little hole in the sandy path which I never would have noticed.  With a little encouragement from a twig – out popped a huge black wish-bone spider – a type of trap door spider but it has a web like a sock around the top of the hole.

We then found this little banjo frog – another lifer for me – I have heard them but have never seen one before.

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Banjo Frog

We then found another black wish-bone spider also in the middle of the sandy path.  They get their name from the shape of their burrows.

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All in all a great night – new species of vertebrates for me and heaps of inverts too!