Looking for numbats at Boyagin Nature Reserve

Its on my wildlife bucket list to see a wild numbat.  I get out wildlife watching fairly often in the Perth region but numbats live that little bit further away, they are diurnal (out during the day) when I am normally working or with the family and also they are listed as endangered as there are probably less than 1000 left.  There are only 2 natural populations left – Dryandra and Perup, with Boyagin a site where they have been reintroduced.  They used to cover most of the southern region of Australia before the introduction and spread of foxes.

My wildlife buddy Jimmy and I planned a Saturday night away at Boyagin Nature Reserve – out in the wheatbelt not too far from Brookton – about an hour 45 mins from Perth.

I had seen quite a lot of facebook activity with people spotting numbats on The Dryandra (Incl Boyagin/Tutanning) – A South West Australian Safari group – so that made me really want to get down and see my first one.  Jimmy had warned me it can be a slog sometimes but that just makes it all the more rewarding when you see one.  I studied these tips from Sean van Numbat (van Alphen)!

I met Jimmy at Boyagin as he had already been at Tutanning Nature Reserve looking for Thorny Devils – an amazing lizard that can be pretty hard to find.  On my way off Brookton Hwy I saw a beautiful Wedge-tailed eagle being harassed by a mob of ravens.

We dropped a car off and started the numbat hunt – driving slowly scanning the woodland in likely habitat.  One of their prime habitats is Wandoo woodland with its hollow fallen logs for cover and plenty of wood on the ground for their food – the termite.

Wandoo with plenty of fallen wood – see the Gastrolobium flowering.

The countryside was spectacular with lots of wildflowers – especially the orangey Gastrolobium shrubs.

We found some probable evidence of numbats in terms of a burrow and diggings but none of the elusive critters.  They dig following the underground termite galleries.  We did see 3 awesome echidna and I was able to get very close to two of them.

We searched for about 3 hours and then headed to Pingelly for a pub meal.  We then came back after dark for some spotlighting – hoping to see some nocturnal marsupials and perhaps a Western spotted frog.  Jimmy had seen Tammar wallaby and the frogs at Tutanning the night before so we were hopeful.  We spent 3-4 hours spotlighting but the only marsupials were common brushtail possums and Western grey kangaroos.  We did find some Western spotted frogs – this is a burrowing frog and it was a dry night, not sure why they were around?  I did also hear a White-striped freetail bat flying above us and caught a glimpse of a bat fluttering in the headtorch beam.

The possums posed for shots but the roos were pretty skittish.

We also saw this awesome Tawny frogmouth.

Tawny frogmouth @ Boyagin

The next morning we headed out numbat spotting again – we put in another 3 hours or so but no luck – not even echidna today but saw a few lovely birds and heard many calling.

It was a great time but I will have to put more time in before I get my first numbat.  I need to start making plans to be back during the day!

I headed for home and saw this little guy on the road and helped him to safety..

Bobtail @ Boyagin

Advertisements

Dryandra spotlighting – mammal heaven!

Ever since I have been researching wildlife watching I have wanted to go to Dryandra Woodland.  2 hours out of Perth and not far from Narrogin it is a premier destination for nature lovers.  It is a patchwork of reserves in wheatbelt farming country and is going to become a national park soon.  Due to DPAWs Western Shield program wildlife has held on in Dryandra, where it has disappeared from most other places.  It is one of only a couple of places where our state fauna emblem, the Numbat, can be seen in a naturally remaining population.  The Numbat was common across most of Southern Australia from West to East coasts – but disappeared as foxes made their way West following rabbits.  I still haven’t seen a Numbat in the wild but as they are diurnal (out during the daytime), you need to drive the trails keeping your eyes peeled during the times they are active.

Anyway my mate Jimmy had suggested we do a long, late night to Dryandra the day before Australia Day.  I was excited to go there for the first time at night!  My wife and I went about 3.5 years ago during the day (pre-kids!) and saw some nice birds and an Echidna.

Jimmy and I left at 6:30pm hoping to get there before the roos got too active – the drive went well.  We got to the reserve and setup our gear.  We drove very slowly spotlighting out the windows – we spotted a pair of snoozing kookaburras, roos and a few possums on the ground.  We then spotted this Tawny frogmouth.

Our main target of the evening was the Woylie – its a small critically endangered marsupial that gets to about 40cm long and 1.5kg.  Huge conservation efforts had led to the removal of the threatened status which caused celebrations but recent crashes in populations has put it back to critically endangered.  It’s not entirely known what has caused the crash – possibly a parasite and cats – but it happened in multiple geographically separated locations at once.

We headed down Wandering-Narrogin Rd before turning into the reserve on Kawana Rd. Next we headed right into Gura Road to some old fenced sandalwood plantations (a couple of kms after the intersection of Koomal Rd) where they like to eat the nuts (coords below) because of fallen branches – so the Woylies can come and go.  Jimmy spotted a couple from the car at the first fenced region on the right – they were quite skittish and the leaves underfoot were very dry – impossible to try and be quiet.  The photos are all of the same Woylie- note the ear tags – it must have been caught before by researchers.  It looks like it might have a joey in the pouch.  There were two but these were the best shots I could get.

Woylie @ Dryanda

We then headed onto the next plantation (a little further up Gura Rd on the right – also fenced – coords below) to see if we could see some more.  I tried to get shots of one but it just wouldn’t stay still to get a clear view!  I then saw something mouse like scurry up a dead tree and then peer at me from the top – Antechinus (small carnivorous marsupial) I first thought, but then it jumped to a nearby sheoak and I saw its tail – it was a red-tailed phascogale!  It moved really quickly not allowing me to get a shot – I think the white light affected it.  I hollered for Jimmy as he has never seen one and it is on his bucket list – but he was too far away.  I watched it for a minute or two more – furtively moving from branch to branch before I lost it.  I walked back to the car and found Jimmy but we were not able to find the phascogale again.  This was my best sighting as I had previously had a brief sighting of one in a rubbish bin at Wave Rock, Hyden before – but didn’t have my camera with me at the time.  Now I have seen 2 out of  3 Phascogales – having seen a brush-tailed phascogale in Mundaring last year – just the northern species to see now.  The phascogale was in the back right corner of the sandalwood plantation in a section of mostly sheoak – I have been told that’s where they are most often found.

woylie-tracking

GPS tracks on Gura Rd

The above image shows my walking path – bottom right is the first Woylie spot (GPS Coords 32°45’44” S 116°57’20” E) and the second enclosure (GPS GPS 32°45’36” S 116°57’16” E) – there is parking on the left and an information board.  At the top left you can see my steps around where I saw the Phascogale.

We saw a couple of possums sitting in the tree not far from where the car was parked.

We then headed further up Gura Rd to go to a spot where Jimmy had heard Tammar wallabies had been seen but he had never seen them.  Not far from the second Woylie spot Jimmy saw something dash across the road that he wasn’t initially sure what it was – we stopped to have a better look.  It was a chuditch – a bucket list animal for me!  Chuditch is one of the indigenous names – also called a Western Quoll or native marsupial cat.  It is one of the larger carnivorous marsupials and something I have always been dying to see.  We headed out of the car quickly to try and get a better look and it shot up a tree – bingo we could get a good look now.

It was a beautiful gold honey colour with white spots – on the ground it seemed quite elongate and moved very quickly.  In the tree it just watched us – not really seeming fearful of us at all.  Jimmy thought it was possibly a juvenile as was smaller than others he had seen before.  We watched it for a while before leaving it be.  I was buzzing afterwards.  I have been to Julimar Forest and Lane Poole Reserve previously hoping to see Chuditch but with no luck.

We then headed to a grassy clearing where Jimmy thought the Tammar might be – but no luck.  It was getting to midnight – so time to head for home.

I should mention we had seen a couple of unidentified bats flying above us during the evening – one larger and one smaller – it was a warm night with plenty of insect food bothering us!  I did hear on a few occasions a White-striped freetail bat – one of the only bats that is audible to the human ear and doesn’t need special equipment.

We did re-check the first Woylie spot as we had left a couple of peanut/oat balls hoping to attract some more – they had been completely polished off by 2-3 possums – this juvenile was cute!

Common brushtail possum @ Dryandra

I had mentioned to Jimmy it would be nice to see an Echidna and sure enough we spotted one heading out of the woodland!  Just after this we saw a small mouse like critter that we decided was just a feral house mouse that we didn’t photograph as it was too quick.

Echidna @ Dryandra

Heading back home on the Wandering-Narrogin Rd we saw a road-killed Tawny frogmouth that we moved off the road – to prevent any scavengers suffering the same fate.

We saw 7-8 Western brush wallaby on the way back on Wandering-Narrogin Rd and Albany Hwy.  After so much luck for the evening it didn’t hold and I wasn’t able to get a shot of the elusive critter.  Each time we stopped they were either on the wrong side of the car or another car would come scaring them into the bush.

Our final animal of the night was a Burton’s legless lizard crossing the road.  We took some shots and then chuffed it deep into the road verge trying to keep it from getting squished.

We got back to my place about 2am – what a night!

The total count – 8-10 mammals all up – 2 new to me marked with a *!

  • Common brushtail possum
  • Western Grey Kangaroo
  • Woylie*
  • Chuditch*
  • 2-3 Unidentified bat species (one was White-striped free-tailed bat – heard only)
  • Echidna
  • House Mouse (feral)
  • Western brush wallaby

More backyard herps!

I have been doing a little gardening in the backyard and yesterday found another species of reptile in our garden!  I am really sure it is a Sand-plain Worm Lizard – not a snake but a legless lizard.  I just saw the tail and end of the body as it disappeared into the sand – it was grey colour with quite a thick body and blunt tail – it wasnt a worm.  I didn’t get a photo but here is one that Brian Bush took – source is from his website – Snakes Harmful and Harmless.

Southwest Yellow-throuted Worm Lizard @ Mundaring

Sand-plain worm lizard by Brian Bush

I also found 2 two-toed mulch skinks – so now I know there was at least one in the garden before I translocated one – see my other blog!

On another note I met Brian Bush a week or so ago – I had been trying to get a copy of one of his out of print field guides and found he had a copy for sale and I went to his house to pick it up.  He is a real character with such a wealth of knowledge – he had a specimen of blind snake caught at Lake Cronin that he was taking to the museum as he thought it was new to science!

So anyway thats 4 species of reptile for my suburban garden that is mostly grass!  I am quite pleased – I still don’t have a photo of the fence lizard or Buchanan’s snake-eyed skink but here is a couple I have taken from other places.

And for the final herps for today – I saw 5 oblong turtles in the lake next to my friends house.  They get fed so visit from time to time – my son thought they were awesome.

Herping at Canning Dam

My naturalist buddy Jimmy and I planned to come out herping just before Christmas on the really hot 38°C day.  Hot days mean warm nights and this can mean the herps are more active into the evening.  It was also moonless so we hoped that would help us see more.

We headed up to Canning Dam – our primary target Southern Death Adder – Jimmy has been looking for them for a number of years with no luck as they are really hard to find.  They tend to sit in leaf litter motionless just waiting for an unlucky prey item to come past – the warm nights can bring them onto the road to be found.  Jimmy had checked it out the night before with no luck but had found a roadkilled one a couple of weeks before – so we know we are in the right spot.

We brought our bikes as the Water Corporation block off access at night – this allowed us to cover plenty of ground.

Our first wildlife was an inquisitive Tawny Frogmouth that checked us out.

20161221-102a6482-resize

Tawny Frogmouth

We then found our first of what was to be many – Barking Gecko.  They get their name from their behaviour when threatened – they arch their backss and bark quite loudly.  They have real character and are beautifully marked.

20161221-102a6486-resize

Barking Gecko

Just across the road from the Barking Gecko, Jimmy spotted another gecko – which after a closer inspection was a Clawless Gecko – Australia’s smallest species.  This one was only 4-5cms long and beautifully coloured.

20161221-102a6495-resize

Clawless Gecko

20161221-102a6497-resize

We found plenty more Barking Gecko but they weren’t that obliging for photos!  They are the biggest geckos that I have seen.

20161221-102a6500-resize

Barking Gecko

We looked carefully on a granite outcrop where Jimmy had seen a good sized Carpet Python the night before – sadly not there tonight.  Our night was snakeless – shame…

We did hear a few White-striped Freetail Bats – they are audible with the human ear and often heard.

Towards the end of out travels we crossed over the river that comes from the dam and there were plenty of frogs – Motorbike, Slender Tree and probably a Moaning Frog.

All in all a great night with two new geckos for me but a distinct lack of snakes – well we will just have to do another trip!

On the way home I took some shots of a roadkilled 2D rabbit and bobtail.

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.

resize-6445resize-6447

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.

resize-6452

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!

resize-6455

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.

resize-6467

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.

resize-6473

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

Reptiles at home – Two-toed earless skink & Marbled gecko

I was transplanting some agapanthus & dietes from another house and in the bag I had stored the plants found this little guy.

2016-12-03-15-27-26

Different from the Buchanan’s snake-eyed skink you often see on fences and walls this is a two-toed earless skink (Hemiergis quadrilineata).  One of the interesting things about Australian skinks is many of them have reduced numbers of legs and toes.  This fella lives in leaf litter or under the sand so is quite snake-like but the head is characteristic lizard.  They are pretty common in Perth backyards but not that often seen except if you disturb where they hang out.  My son Liam had a good look but declined a hold and we let him go in his new home in my garden.  So I have now conducted an inadvertent reptile translocation into my garden.

2016-12-03-15-27-30

That’s now 3 species I have found in my garden – last week when setting up the night before for my 40th party  I found this guy in my sons sandpit – a Marbled gecko (Christinus marmoratus).  Common in many of the older suburbs around Perth.  I see around lights in the evenings catching the insects that are attracted.

2016-11-25-20-34-35

I will now have to get a picture of the Buchanan’s snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus buchananii) which is the final species I have in my garden.  Maybe I have more but its pretty stark landscape for wildlife..

Herping at night

I had information from my wildlife buddy Jimmy that the first really hot day after winter is when the Herps (reptiles) will come out and can often be found on or by the road especially in the north around Two Rocks.

My bro and I got headed off for the hour odd drive about 8ish getting to Two Rocks Rd about 9:15pm – it was still in the low 20s so warm but nothing like the 37° odd day it had been.

We drove slowly along – pulling over for the mush faster other traffic – we went really sure what we were looking for but giving it a go anyway.  We saw lots of stick snakes 🙂 but this was our first herp but unfortunately road killed.

resize-5931resize-5929

I had this ID’d on a facebook page as a dugite.  I had been hoping for a Bardick but it wasnt to be.

We drove plenty more and then we saw this tiny grey thing right in the middle of the road but we were past.  We reversed back and saw this amazing south-western spiny-tailed gecko on the road.  We chuffed it onto the verge for its safety and to get some shots.

resize-5950resize-5940resize-5938

My bro and I were so pleased to see this amazing gecko – the couple of hours driving were all worth it!  We will have to try again on another warm night…

Quenda, quenda, quenda – Piney Lakes

I had been on parental leave and this was my last weekday before heading back to work – there was a play date on at home so I was going to head out for some exploring.

In some of my research I had seen Piney Lakes had lots of Oblong Turtles and it was a place I had driven past many times wondering what it was like in there.  In my reading up they also spoke about Quenda that can be found there.

I drove in from Leach Hwy – noting you can’t park inside on weekends.

As soon as I got out of the car I heard the unmistakable call of a rainbow bee-eater – they are a summer visitor and fly down from the North & PNG to breed in sandy tunnels – so lots of places in Perth play host to them.

resize-5925

Rainbow Bee-eater

There is an education centre which I suspect is the main function of the place.   I headed past there seeing lots of honeyeaters and wattlebirds.

resize-5820

White-cheeked honeyeater

I walked through sculpture garden to the walk around the wetland.  Just as I entered the gate I saw a quenda dash away but wasn’t able to grab a photo.

As I walked on the track the vegetation is quite close and you can hear lots of birds.  I came across this awesome juvenile bobtail lizard getting some sun on this warm day.

resize-5842

Just beyond I found a bigger bobtail with one eye – must have been a violent encounter in the past perhaps with a cat, dog or maybe fox?.

resize-5846resize-5844

I hadn’t seen or heard any more quenda for a while but then saw one dash into the bushes – they are pretty timid here.  Flitting about on a nest box was this striated pardalote.

resize-5858

I also saw a skink dash away – I didn’t manage a shot – I was missing lots today.  Looking at the reptile book at home I think it was an odd-striped Ctenotus and they are pretty hard to identify without a really good shot or catching them.

I walked all the way round the vegetated lake and then went onto the boardwalk where I quickly spotted a quenda – this time I was quieter and it was feeding during the day but under vegetation most of the time.

resize-5908

I spotted a couple more – if you were patient and quiet you could really watch their feeding behaviour.

I then spotted a bird which was zipping up and down tree trunks and I thought it might be a varied sittela but on examination it was a rarely seen but common white-browed scrubwren.

resize-5890

I had a nice view of a family of splendid fairywrens – also known as blue wrens where the dominant male is an iridescent blue – it didn’t pose nicely for me!  I also saw a nice Western Wattlebird.

I was so pleased seeing quenda feeding in late afternoon – this has to become one of my spots to see them.

On leaving I saw another Western Wattlebird feeding on Banksia.

resize-5914

This is a really nice spot – I am sure there are more reptiles to be seen and also amphibians – but the quenda during the day was the standout.