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.
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.
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.
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
- 2-3 Unidentified bat species (one was White-striped free-tailed bat – heard only)
- House Mouse (feral)
- Western brush wallaby