The critically endangered possums of Busselton…

Over Christmas we had a holiday with extended family plus friends and headed to Busselton for a camping holiday. It was the first time camping for my 2 year old daughter and both kids were excited to have cousins and friends with us. We were staying in the Siesta Park region.

From a wildlife perspective the camp caretaker told me he often sees Quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) in the sand dunes – especially crossing the track. This was new to me as I haven’t heard of them being in this area before. Unfortunately I didn’t see them during my stay.

Our first night, once getting the kids to bed, we heard a rustling in the trees as we were relaxing and having a chat. We shone a light and saw our first
Western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis). This turned out to be a nightly occurrence as we were in pretty good Peppermint tree habitat.

The Western ringtail possum are now critically endangered through a combination of habitat loss, predation by cats & foxes and car strike as they have to travel on the ground & cross roads due to loss of trees. While I don’t distrust the science, it is hard to get into your head that something you see somewhat easily in the right habitat, is actually struggling for survival. This species unfortunately makes 11th place onto the top 20 Australian mammal species likely to go extinct with a 25% chance of losing them forever.

Western ringtail possum @ Busselton

Another night a few of the blokes went to the Possum spotlighting trail leaving the kids asleep. It’s a 1.5 km walk set up especially for night time with reflective trail markers. I have blogged on this trail before.

We saw 30 odd ringtails, 15 Common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula), 5 or so Western Grey Kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) but no rarer species that have been seen here such as Bush rat or Brush-tail phascogale.

I used my Echo Meter Touch 2 bat detector but no bats were heard. I did however find this Moaning frog (Heleioporus eyrei) – picking it up with reflective eye shine.

Moaning frog @ Possum spotlighting trail, Busselton

We also spent time snorkeling along the beach near the campsite and had some fun with an underwater camera. Look at the top left picture – can you see the flounder? The same fish is in the image below while moving.

One of the last evenings we kept the kids up and took them spotlighting just as it got dark – all were excited especially my 2 year old Sienna who had never been before but heard stories from her big brother! There were 7 kids from our group but we collected a fair few other kids from around the campsite. We saw about 8 possums all up and the kids had a great time & learnt about wildlife!

All in all a lovely holiday with plenty of possums seen 🙂

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Dryandra woodland in a night!

Our good friend Karen was visiting from South Africa and she expressed interest in seeing some Australian wildlife. I don’t need much encouragement so we planned a quick evening trip to Dryandra Woodland. It’s a little over 2 hrs from Perth and it was my first time spotlighting there without my usual mammal watching buddy Jimmy!

I was keen to return to try and find Western pygmy possum that I have blogged about before – so we spotlighted on our way to that location and came across a few possums.

Brushtail possum @ Dryandra Woodland

We spent quite a lot of time looking in the flowering vegetation but again I lucked out on Pygmy possum – one day 🙂 I was hopeful that I had seen something with a bright eye reflection but on closer examination of the photo it was a spider way up in a tree!

We spotted a few Woylies in the region but they were fairly skittish – Karen had a close encounter with one I had spooked and it bounded her way!

We headed down to the sandalwood plantation to look for more Woylies and also possibly find Red-tailed phascogale as we had found them before. We only found more possums but got a good shot of Karen with a possum in the tree above.

Karen with a possum in the sandalwood plantation.

Later we found a beautiful Tawny frogmouth that let us get very close.

Tawny frogmouth @ Dryandra

And something I don’t often sight, a possum on the ground. I know from seeing camera trap footage that they are often on the ground there, but I usually see them up trees as they feel safer. We then took a little video once it headed up a tree.

Possum on the ground @ Dryandra
Possum @ Dryandra

We finished off the night going past a couple of spots that had been good for Chuditch previously, but no luck tonight. We saw our last possum and then headed out of the woodland. All in all a very enjoyable evening.

Brushtail possum @ Dryandra

Tammar wallabies of Garden Island

For a long time I have been wanting to visit Garden Island (HMAS Stirling) which is just off Rockingham, South of Perth. It’s a working naval base and as such access is restricted. Like Rottnest Island there is a remnant wallaby population surviving on the introduced predator-free island, with a large population of Tammar wallaby (Notamacropus eugenii). They can be found on the mainland but are quite timid and not often seen. I think both being a island and the restricted access due to naval operations has allowed fauna to flourish and much of the vegetation is as it was Pre-European settlement.

My friend Russell offered to arrange a trip as a birthday gift – asking a mutual friend Dan who is in the navy to facilitate access. They both gladly gave up a Saturday evening. Public access to the island is usually only available during daylight hours via boat – so this was a special treat. Russ and I met Dan just at the start of the causeway as you can drive onto the island. We went through the security checks and drove further into the island into some of the navy residential areas. Just as we were about to park we saw our first Tammar. I was very excited and then we just kept seeing them!

Tammar wallaby @ Garden Island

The wallabies were everywhere. They are taller than a Quokka but smaller than a kangaroo and beautifully marked. They seem quite unfazed by human presence but would dash away into thick vegetation if you go too close.


Tammar wallaby @ Garden Island

I really enjoyed photographing them – they had quite varied colouration – possibly age and gender related or perhaps just natural variation.

We saw so many wallabies and I took a lot of photos – it was pretty hard which ones to choose so there is a fair amount posted here!


Tammar wallaby @ Garden Island

I captured this short video as it allowed me to get very close.

Tammar wallaby @ Garden Island

As we completed our loop we came onto a grassed area with thick bordering vegetation and we saw more wallabies than ever.

This video (sorry its a little shaky) gives an idea of how many there are in some locations and also how they blend into the vegetation.


Tammar wallabies @ Garden Island

As we completed the loop more were seen in amongst paths and car parks.

Our last couple were sitting in the car park for some reason near a motorbike!

It was a great evening with many, many Tammars seen. It’s wonderful to know there is a good sized population of this wonderful macropod on a protected island which is much less known than its famous Quokka cousin.

Numbat survey at Boyagin Nature Reserve with Project Numbat

My buddy Jimmy had been talking for a while about the annual numbat surveys he helped with, for Project Numbat and Parks & Wildlife Service (part of DBCA).  I had been interested for a while but with little kids it’s a huge ask to leave my wife with the kids all weekend, this year the ever gracious Mel was happy for me to join the team.

Jimmy had been instrumental in my first sighting of numbat and it wasn’t an ordinary quick glimpse but an extended viewing of a pair just before mating.  It was my 4th time trying to see them which gives an idea of the rarity and how difficult they can be to find.

Project Numbat survey both Boyagin Nature Reserve and Dryandra Woodland once a year.  Project Numbat are a not for profit group with a focus on community awareness and conservation of the numbat.  The type of survey we would be conducting was a digging survey as just visual surveys can miss animals and they leave distinctive markings when they forage for termites which persist.

Jimmy and I headed down once I had the kids mostly ready for bed.  We would be staying at the lovely Lions Dryandra Woodland Village and travelling to Boyagin daily which is about 30 minutes away.  We got there after dark and couldn’t help but go for a spotlight – we were hopeful for Pygmy possum that Jimmy had seen in some flowering bushes a year earlier and also after a couple of trips Jimmy had made earlier in the week.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the evening for Pygmy’s but we found a couple of lovely Woylie (Bettongia penicillata) in the area.

We headed back to Lions Village to get some sleep as we had a full day of surveying the next day.

We got up and had breakfast with the other volunteers.  Also joining us was Dr Tony Friend from Parks & Wildlife – Mr Numbat himself!  We had six of us in total and split into 2 parties and headed out to Boyagin to make a start for the day.  My group comprised of Tamara (President of Project Numbat) and Jimmy. 

First task of the day was to practice in identifying numbat diggings – they are quite small, not too deep, discrete diggings without a mound of dirt.  These are left after exposing termites in their galleries just beneath the surface and licking them with their long tongues – they are also often grouped in a run as the numbat follows the food in the galleries – see below photo.  Other diggings that need to be ruled out are the following:

  • Woylie (deeper v shaped hunting for underground truffles) – often earth left mounded
  • Quenda (funnel shaped)
  • Rabbits (often with scat present)
  • Echidna (messy often covering a large area)

The survey consisted of driving to pre-defined locations and then the group surveying an area of 100m radius for a period of 10 mins.  If diggings were found others confirmed or disagreed.  Once located, a quick search was also made for numbat scat – hard, quite heavy black with shiny bits of termite exoskeleton inside.   The locations are spread out throughout the blocks of Boyagin and allow year-to-year comparisons of numbats.  Records were kept on Project Numbat Toughbooks in a GIS application.

It was rewarding to find evidence of numbat foraging and also noting how you can tell if a site habitat was more ‘numbatty’ depending on the vegetation and fallen trees present.

We saw plenty of Gould’s sand goannas (Varanus gouldii) crossing the tracks and also got a glimpse of a black-headed monitor (Varanus tristis) but it didn’t stay for photos!

We came together for morning tea & lunch and it was nice to hear how the other group were getting on.  They, like us, had some sites with repeat records of numbats from previous years, some had new records where they hadn’t been found before, and some sites that previously had diggings but didn’t this time.  Such is the way of scientific survey.

We finished off the day’s surveys feeling like we had made great progress – setting ourselves up well for the next day. Tamara cooked an amazing green chicken curry with rice which went down a treat after all the work of the day. Just before dinner one of the team mentioned they had seen a Gould’s goanna just outside our cottage.

That night the rest of the team were going to settle in for a relaxing night and enjoy some well earned beverages, but Jimmy & I we wanted to see more wildlife. We headed out as it got dark going back again to our Pygmy possum spot – with still no luck! We had a very nice viewing of a Tawny frogmouth that just stayed put. We also saw the usual collection of Woylies, Brushtail possums and Western grey kangaroos. We also spotted a nice Western spotted frog. Highlights were spotting a couple of Chuditch – in a couple of hotspots that seem to have animals every visit – no photos as the animals were skittish that night.

We headed to the sandalwood plantation previously mentioned to see if we might see Red-tailed phascogale, and it’s always good for Woylie. Many woylie were seen and Jimmy saw an Echidna that I didn’t see. Hitting the carpark I found this beautifully marked Wheatbelt stone gecko (Diplodactylus granariensis) – a new species for me. We headed back knowing we had another full on day tomorrow.

The second day Jimmy & I were with Tony Friend (numbat guru). We changed plan this day deciding not to meet for morning tea but would meet for lunch at one of the dams. Discussions with Tony were great and I learnt lots about many topics!

At one point we were just heading for a corner where two tracks met and Tony calls “Numbat! and I would like to catch it”! It bolted, as did Jimmy, who hadn’t seen it from the back seat but was doing his best to find it… Unfortunately it was too fast and this was our only sighting of the weekend. Tony will sometimes attach radio collars or make an assessment of the general condition of the animal, so not just catching for fun.

I learnt heaps from chats with Tony and totally enjoyed the day. We caught up for lunch and learnt that the other team had seen a carpet python which Jimmy had been dying to see – but no luck for him this weekend! We headed out after lunch completing the last few sites before finishing for the day around 2pm. We took some team photos before we headed back to Perth. A great weekend all round – I learnt heaps, met amazing new people and had lots of time in the bush!  

Stroll through Kings Park

My beautiful wife and I try to get some date time each fortnight.  This fortnight Mel had the brilliant idea to drop the kids off with their Grandies and go for a walk in Kings Park next to Perth CBD.  Kings Park is Perth’s botanical gardens, combined with lovely parks, play areas and two thirds of it bush in a 400 hectare reserve very close to the CBD.

It was feeling like spring weather and we headed to the park planning to walk through the botanical gardens which should be full of flowers this time of year.  I also wanted to walk down “Law walk” as I had heard on facebook that someone had seen 12 Quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) during the daytime on a walk recently.  It’s surmised that an unauthorised release of Quenda occurred in the park as their genetics indicate they come from the Bibra lake region and the staff both love and detest them – they are digging away, do what bandicoots do, but can’t read the signs to keep out of the immaculately tended botanic gardens full of rare plants!

It was really busy and we found it tough to get a park but immediately felt at peace once we started walking through the gardens.

Once we headed down to Law walk I saw what I think were possibly bandicoot diggings but didn’t see an actual Quenda.

As we headed down the path a little further we saw a bounce of a bird that was unmistakably a Fairy-wren.  It settled on the fence and we could see the blue of an eclipse non-dominant male.

Purple-backed fairy-wren @ Kings Park

We then caught a glimpse of a brilliantly coloured bird with a couple of other drab cross the path in front of us.

It was the dominant male and I had a suspicion it was a Variegated fairy-wren (there are many species in the wider Perth region).  I checked with the brains trust (WA Birds fb group) and they confirmed it was this species but also advised it had been recently split from the widely distributed Variegated fairy-wren and now was known as the Purple-backed fairy-wren! (Malurus assimilis).  It is also possible to determine which species the female belongs to with this imaginative titled Birdlife Australia article ‘50 shades of brown!‘ see a photo of a female below.

We followed the flock and I saw one other new species for me – a Varied sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera).  Not a great shot but was able to tell the species from underneath.

Varied sittella @ Kings Park

A lovely walk with great company (wife without kids!) on a beautiful Spring day – the warmer weather is coming!

 

Ringtails in Dalyellup

Liam, my 4 year old son and I, went to stay with my good old friend Daz & family – mostly to see them but also to look for Western ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) they have in their garden and the adjacent remnant Tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) forest in Dalyellup, just south of Bunbury.

The Western ringtail possum has been classified as critically endangered in 2018.  Some sobering reading in this article – the Western ringtail has a 25% chance of extinction in the next 20 years and has the somewhat dubious honour of being in position 11 of the Top 20 Mammals at risk in Australia.  While I have to trust the experts – it seems a little strange for something I can find fairly easily and have blogged about in a couple of other locations (follow the possum category below to find them).

It’s a 2 hour drive south from Perth and Liam handled the drive very well.  We settled in and then Daz took us with his son to the Bunbury wildlife park.  It is a council run park with mainly native animals and encourages animal interaction with suitable species – its a great place to take the kids if you are in the area.

Liam loved feeding the birds and kangaroos.

They have a really nice selection of natives including tammar wallaby as below, quokka, wombat, red & grey kangaroos, potoroo, dingo and a small selection of reptiles & frogs.

That evening we geared up, dressed warmly and headed out to find some possums just after the sun had gone down – Liam was super excited!  Our first possum was sighted in the front yard of the house!

Western ringtail possum @ Dalyellup

We then headed into the Tuart forest which is mixed with Peppermints (Agonis flexuosa) & Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) trees.

All up we saw approx 6 possums in a small section walking for under an hour – I had been hoping for other species as Daz has previously seen a Brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa) in the area, but no luck this time.  Liam was pretty tired by about 8pm (an hour past normal bedtime!) so we headed for home and bed.

The next morning we went down to The Lakes also in Dalyellup for a walk and see some birds.

It was a lovely sunny morning and we could hear plenty of Rattling frogs (Crinia glauerti) and Banjo frogs (Limnodynastes dorsalis). I made a recording on my phone and submitted it to the great citizen science project FrogID.  I encourage everyone to download the app on your smartphone and record frogs wherever you hear them!  We saw some nice birds.

Just as we were on the other side we noticed a possum drey (they make a nest of leaves to sleep during the day).  Daz has noticed that the openings generally face North-West which we surmised why that might be.  He has experimented making one out of 2 hanging baskets joined together filled with coconut fibre and peppermint leaves – and had an inhabitant for a period in his garden!

We then went for a quick look in the tuart forest looking for herps under the leaf litter using a rake.  We also lifted rocks, bark and wood – always being careful to put it back where we found it.  No herps found but we did find a nice centipede that I didn’t get a photo of.

Liam and I then headed back home to Perth to see my wife Mel & daughter Sienna.  We had an awesome weekend and Liam loved Daz’s son and especially his Lego and treehouse!

Rottnest Is. – Quokkas, birds and fur seals

For the winter school holidays we took a family trip to Rottnest for a week.  It’s a great place to stay – very relaxing with tourists getting about on foot, bikes or the bus – there are only service cars on the island.  We stayed in a heritage cottage in Thompsons Bay built around 1840!

Rottnest is a small island about 20kms off Fremantle and is about 7kms long.  Its name comes from dutch explorers who named it Eyland’t Rottenest (“Rats’ Nest Island”) after mistaking the marsupial Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) for a large rat in 1696!  Its original indigenous name of the island is Wadjemup, used by the local Noongar people.  The island has a mixed history as it was used as an indigenous prison for a time and now it is a tourist haven and important wildlife sanctuary.

The kids loved the Quokkas which are everywhere and very tame in the main tourist areas.  My almost 2 yr old daughter Sienna grasped straight away that they like green leaves and we had to help her find leaves for the whole week.  Rottnest is a mainstay of the Quokka population – it’s not well known that there are isolated populations throughout the southwest of WA.

In researching the animals that could be found on Rottnest I found there is a colony of New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) on Cathedral rocks on the western end of the island and with a newly constructed boardwalk.  I have previously seen Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) but the fur seal was a new species for me.  My 4 year old son Liam, my wife Mel and I, chose a clear day and headed out on the bus that does loops round the island.  It was a 30 min bus ride out and was cold and windy on this exposed part of the island.

I took this pano of the rocks.  You can’t make it out in the picture but seals could be seen hauled on the rocks and also frolicking in the water.  To see better you needed binoculars or a telephoto camera.

Pano of Cathedral Rocks, Rottnest Is

Seals hauled out on the rocks.

Seals in the water.

You can see how many seals are on the rocks if you look carefully.

We then headed to West end where we saw a soaring Osprey and a huge built up nest on a rock just offshore.

We then headed to catch the bus back and on the side of the road found this weird spider which has since been identified as one of the mouse spiders (Missulena granulosa).

On another day I took a walk to check out some of the salt lakes for birds and found my first ever Banded stilts (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus).

I saw a few other birds (photos below) – I was really pleased with the swallow picture flying into the wind on the golf course but not actually making any headway as the wind was so strong!  There used to be a population of breeding Indian peafowl on the island – but they are managed now to just 5. Common pheasant (introduced) can also be found on the island but I didn’t see any.

Welcome swallow @ Rottnest Is

I finished off with a collection of Quokka shots.  The below is one drinking open fresh water which is quite difficult to find on the island, so this one was taking advantage of a large puddle as it had been quite wet!

In the below right is one sleeping on its tail and getting some sun!

We had a great holiday – even though a few days were wet.  The kids loved the island and Sienna is still talking about Quokkas! Their Granny bought them each a fluffy toy one on the island which is in bed with them each night.

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!

Ngwayir (Western ringtail possum) in Dawesville

My family and our close friends with their kids spent Easter in Mandurah in a lovely house by the ocean.  Its now something of a family tradition and in previous years we have headed out wildlife watching without kids.  This year they are that little bit older and my son often asks to go possum hunting – so instead of exploring somewhere new we took the kids to where we went last year in Dawesville and found many Western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) also called by the indigenous name Ngwayir.

Ngwayir are critically endangered on the IUCN red list and one of the main threatening processes is habitat loss due to clearing.  They also can be predated on the ground by feral animals especially as many trees have gone and they typically don’t travel on the ground.  They are only found in the South-West corner of WA and often found in conjunction with Peppermint trees (Agonis flexuosa).

The population in Dawesville is one of the most Northerly that I am aware of and I understand they came from population expansions after reintroductions into the Yalgorup National Park.  Due to their threatened status I won’t say exactly where they can be found but please contact me if you would like location information.

We rounded the 3 boys up and got them all kitted out with lights.  We had quite a few “are we there yet” on the 30 min trip but they were excited as well!  We headed up the road where there are many overhanging peppermints – initially we didn’t see any and I had the thought – have they all gone!

But then I caught some eyeshine!  It was too far off in private property, but I soon saw another – which was a Ngwayir.

Western ringtail possum @ Dawesville

We saw quite a few more and saw this Common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) or Koomal.  It was on the ground but shot up a tree when my 4yr old son ran to it!

Common brushtail possum @ Dawesville

We saw these 3 ringtails that were quite low on a very thin tree and the kids got a very good viewing.  When they thought we were too close they showed amazing climbing skills grabbing onto the overhanging peppermint foliage and just scaling up.

We had a great night.  We also tried my bat detector but there were none around.  All up we think we saw approx 20 ringtails and 2 brushtails.

Possum hunters! @ Dawesville

Frogs & Wallabies…

My friend Andrew and I had been planning for a while to spotlight at one of the lakes near his house in Ballajura. Emu Lake is natural but surrounded by quite a lot of housing.  Our primary target was frogs.

We quickly found the first of many motorbike frogs (Litoria moorei) for the night which all seemed quite small and just chilling out in vegetation around the lake.  They were easily found from their eye shine in the beam of the head torch.

We found many and I added a few photos so you can see the variability of their colouration.

Just as we had nearly finished circumnavigating the lake we found these Moaning frogs (Heleioporus eyrei) just sitting on sandy patches amongst the grass, up from the lake.

The motorbike and moaning frogs were not calling but I did hear some Slender tree frogs (Litoria adelaidensis) calling in distant reeds – none were actually seen.

We then headed for Mirrabooka Bushland as I had read there had been Western brush wallaby (Macropus irma) found in a pretty urban location in the last couple of years.  Recording had been made of Parks & Wildlife’s NatureMap – so it was likely to be accurate and not a mix up with a normal common Western grey kangaroo.  The bushland is 85ha of mostly Banksia and pretty sandy tracks.  It is just next to Reid Hwy and can be accessed on the Western side of Northwood Dr, Mirrabooka.

The brush wallaby is proving to be a hard animal to photograph – I have seen them on perhaps 4-5 occasions but as soon as they see a person or the car stops they head for cover very quickly.

We walked a few trails not seeing any wildlife, only hearing at one point a single crash of something large which might have been a wallaby, but it didn’t keep going.

The only living animal was a Tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) which I saw flying through my spotlight and then landed on a branch for a not so great photo.

Tawny frogmouth @ Mirrabooka

I think I would like to try again in the bushland as its a very urban location and would be amazing to find a wallaby in such a location.

Tutanning Nature Reserve – Phascogale, Tammars, Bats & Frogs!

Jimmy and I had planned a while back to continue our Australia Day tradition from 2017 where went out to Dryandra.  This year we planned to go to Tutanning nature reserve (another remnant Wheatbelt nature reserve) as I have never seen a wild Tammar wallaby and Jimmy has seen them each time he has been there.

It’s about 2.5hrs from my place and Jimmy kindly agreed to leave after my kids were down for the night. We planned to drive there, spotlight and then head back in the wee hours.

We drove out taking it slow over the hills trying to make sure we didn’t hit any roos.  Despite all our care – we were dive bombed by a Tawny frogmouth who wedged itself in the grill and died instantly.  It was a night for frogmouths as we saw 4 more in the reserve.

As we got to the reserve at 10pm, we thought we might have some problems with trees across roads as there had been some pretty strong winds with the tail end of the weather from Cyclone Joyce earlier in the week.  We were able to get around them but the roads need careful attention as some might need a 4WD or careful driving in Jimmy’s SUV.  We saw a couple of Western grey kangaroos throughout the reserve.

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We drove through the reserve to the Eastern part where Jimmy had seen Tammar wallabies before – funnily enough on Tammar Rd!

We didn’t initially see any wallabies driving through the section so we parked up and headed out on foot.  Jimmy caught something in his lights and we both saw something small on the ground and then jump onto dead branch just off the ground.  We first thought mouse or maybe Mardo (Yellow-footed Antichinus) but then it scooted up a nearby Sheok moving very quickly – we then realised it was a Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura).  We both got some quick photos as these critters often move very quickly and especially in the white light of our spotlights.

Red-tailed phascogale @ Tutanning NR

This was my third ever sighting, but the first time I was ever able to get a photo.  It skipped around the branches of the tree but then settled on a main branch allowing us great views and better photos.

We were then pretty much satisfied with our night and anything else was a bonus!  Not long after, we spotted our first Tammar wallaby – they are smaller than kangaroos and look very attractive.  They are quite skittish and hang out in areas of thick undergrowth.  I got a couple of shots before it sped off.

We then headed onto the boundary track that borders a farm – we saw other Tammars but they didn’t stay for better viewings.  We then headed up another road seeing a few more, but they stayed well clear of us.

I also got a chance to try out my new toy – Echo Meter Touch 2 for Android – a bat detector you plug into your mobile!  Take a listen to what I think might be a bat – identifying them is a bit of a black art and very technical as you have to analyse the acoustics of the calls.

Below is what a call looks like on my phone app and on some specialist acoustic analytical software Kaleidoscope.  I think the frequency of the call is between 28-50 KHz which I thought might make it a south-western freetail bat, but I have asked for help from experts.  {edit} I have since had advice that the call comes from a Gould’s wattled bat (Chalinolobus gouldii) which is very widely distributed through Australia.

We then spotted a small white frog sitting motionless on the track.  Not 100% sure of the ID at the moment and it can be pretty hard to tell with just photos – I can’t even work out if it is a Sand frog (Heleioporus psammophilus) or White-footed trilling frog (Neobatrachus albipes).

Jimmy then spotted a lovely Western-spotted frog (Heleioporus albopunctatus) in the field so we jumped the fence for a closer look.

Western-spotted frog @ Tutanning NR

We headed back to the car with Jimmy taking his shoes off – going bush in socks! – as he was determined to get a better shot of a Tammar.

Tammar wallaby @ Tutanning NR

I then found another Western spotted frog – the greenish eye shine on the ground is quite distinctive when you shine a headtorch.

Western-spotted frog @ Tutanning NR

We headed home and I finally got to bed at 4am!  A long night but very successful.

Dryandra & Boyagin – Woylies & numbats!

Jimmy and I had planned a while back that we would head out to a couple of the Wheatbelt nature reserves in the Christmas break – so just before the end of 2017 I would have another go at trying to see one of my bucket list animals – the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus).   I have already tried a couple of times previously and they have proved elusive.

Dryandra Woodland Nature Reserve

We drove out to Dryandra (soon to be a national park) and setup camp at Gnaarla mia – a fairly new, well setup bush camping site run by Parks & Wildlife.

Before we setup camp we scoped out 2 likely Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii) sites where Jimmy had seen a Chuditch before on a previous trip – one where we had setup my camera trap that I have blogged about before.

We headed out just after dusk and drove the tracks through Dryandra paying special attention to our two possible Chuditch sites.

We soon came across Common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and Western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus).

Brushtail possum @ Dryandra

This also seemed to be a night with many Woylies (Bettongia penicillata) sighted – a real encouragement as it was many more than our trip almost a year before.

Woylie bum – often all you see of them!

But then a few allowed us to get closer – our best sightings were in one of the old Sandalwood plantations (location described in previous post) where there seems like plenty of nuts around and the Woylies were more concerned about eating than running away from us.  We also had a look for Red-tailed phascogale (Phascogale calura) as both Jimmy & I had found one on separate occasions in the Sheoak, but not this night.

We then revisited our Chuditch site without the camera trap and Jimmy spotted a gecko on a Wandoo tree – he later ID’d it as a Reticulated velvet gecko (Hesperoedura reticulata) – a new species for both of us.  No Chuditch though.

We then had a sighting of a Southern boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiaeand Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

Later Jimmy spotted some eyeshine a way off the road and we walked out to see what it was – we thought maybe Woylie or possum but was hopeful for maybe Tammar or Western brush wallaby.  It was just a possum but then I spotted green eye shine to the North not far from the second Chuditch site which was quite close to Barna mia (a place where you can see endangered animals in an enclosure).  Jimmy was ahead of me and saw the animal climb quickly up a tree where he was able to see spots and confirm Chuditch, but then it dashed down again and ran off before he was able to alert me.  We were not able to relocate it either.  Jimmy did think it might have been the same animal that he had seen in the area on a couple of other occasions.

We then headed back to camp after 5 hours of spotlighting to get a few hours of shuteye as it was 2am!  We checked the camera trap and could see a few images had been taken but I had no way of telling what had been captured.

We did see a couple of microbats flutter in our spotlights but we were not able to ID them – one seemed to have an orange belly (might have been a Western Falsistrelle (Falsistrellus mackenziei) – a fairly large microbat with cinnamon tummy) and I did hear a White-striped free-tailed bat (Tadarida australis).

The next morning we were up bright and early and after a quick coffee headed to Boyagin to try for numbats.  We picked up the camera trap noting it had taken 60 odd images but had no way of viewing what had been captured – that would have to wait until I got home.  On the way we had a lovely viewing of some Carnaby’s munching some Hakea and Jimmy did say he thinks it’s a good sign so see something so early heading out!

Carnaby’s cockatoo @ Dryandra

Boyagin Nature Reserve

We then drove to Boyagin Nature Reserve where we had tried unsuccessfully  for numbats a few months back.

We drove the tracks of the reserve mostly focusing on the North-East block.  We had been driving for 2 hours without seeing anything and had about an hour to go before we needed to head back.  We were just headed up a hill when Jimmy calls “NUMBAT!!” – he had seen just a head peeking out above a log on the side of the road – I then saw it as well and was really excited to see my FIRST EVER NUMBAT! (Tick off the bucket list!), but could not get out of the car to get a better view, for worry of scaring it.  This shot was all I thought I might be able to get.

My first ever numbat sighting! @ Boyagin

Then Jimmy said there is a second one as well!  They both stayed around the log just checking us out – Jimmy was able to open his car door and then I was able to as well and managed to get a few closer shots.  We noted the rusty streak on the male’s chest – oils secreted from their sternal gland during this time of year.

Numbats are typically solitary except when females are caring for their young or when males go roaming for females into their territories, as they only go into estrus for a 24-48hr period in the first couple of weeks of January.  Jimmy and I were both able to get out of the car for better views and then both numbats casually went into the hollow log.  We sat down on the road about 10m back and waited 10 mins before they came out again.

They then sauntered off through the heath and I watched them head towards another hollow log.  They hung around outside for a little while before going inside.

We moved to get good observation positions a way back from the log (I was closer to the road and Jimmy on the other side) and waited another 10 mins or so.  They came out and still seemed pretty chilled with our presence.

I like this shot of the females tongue!

Numbat (female) showing her tongue! @ Boyagin

We could tell it was mating season as the male seemed pretty keen to start right at that moment but the female was a little more coy and at one point turned and gave him a cuff & vocalised her disapproval!

They then re-entered their log and Jimmy moved next to me as he thought it was a better spot.  We waited another 10 mins and out they came again!  At one point we heard a car in the distance and they assumed the meerkat-like pose facing towards where the sound came from (lower image).

We watched them for another 10 mins or so and then backed away, giving them back their space.

Numbat pair chilling @ Boyagin

They sat in the above pose just watching us.   Jimmy and I headed back to the road feeling so privileged to have such an awesome wild experience.

After sharing the images with Tamara from Project Numbat and Sean Van Alphen from the Numbat Task Force – they were able to say they thought they knew the female was either Sheila or one of her twin girls who looked similar but the male has not been ID’d as yet.  They use the unique stripes from the animals to identify individuals and keep a database of all the sightings.  Tamara spends almost every weekend watching numbats and she mentioned to Jimmy how hard it was to find pairs this time of year and she had never seen anything like we had.  What  she usually sees this time of year is horny males trying to find females!

Dryandra Camera Trap Images

Once back at home I was able to download the camera trap images and found more surprises.  We had visits by a Woylie(s?) and a Western grey kangaroo.

And even more exciting – a visit from a Red-tailed phascogale!  They are pretty camera shy (seems to be related to the white light of the spotlight) and I haven’t managed to get a photo of one yet.

I was elated to have finally seen a Numbat and not just one, but a pair showing pre-mating behaviours!  I did get a little carried away with the photos and took over 200 of the numbats so its been difficult to cull them!

Dryandra and Boyagin are two stunning reserves in the WA Wheatbelt and on the trip back we discussed our next trip to get out to Tutanning to see the third major reserve in the Wheatbelt.