Easter possums of Mandurah

As part of our annual Easter family tradition, we spent the Easter long weekend in Mandurah, along with family friends. We took the kids out spotlighting for the critically endangered Western ringtail possum ( Pseudocheirus occidentalis).

We headed down to Dawesville just south of Mandurah. It took some time initially but we were able to find some possums alongside the road in Peppermint trees (Agonis flexuosa). We mainly found ringtails but also found a few Common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula).

This was the first year my daughter joined as she was 2.5 years old. It was a little too much overall for the kids as they were all tired, but they enjoyed the spotlighting – the car trips there and back were challenging.

The spotlighting gang – Easter 2019

Russ and I went out another night (without the kids) to Warrungup Spring Reserve. We had been once before but I had information someone had seen a Brush-tailed phascogale, so I wanted to check it out.

We saw quite a few brushtail possums with the occasional ringtail and a lovely Tawny frogmouth. No phascogale and some distant views of Western grey kangaroo.

It’s really nice to see so many ringtail possums in a location just an hour south of the Perth CBD, but you still have to remind yourself that this species is not doing well.

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Searching for Quokka in Jarrahdale..

I have been looking for mainland Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) for sometime and saw information that people had found some in Jarrahdale. While they were careful not to disclose the exact location I saw some facebook chat about a location a little out of the main strip of Jarrahdale where people had seen Quokka in the mornings, so wanted to check it out.

I took my 4 year old son Liam for a drive hoping we might get lucky and find some Quokka’s enjoying breakfast. We took off a little later than planned but made good time to the location.


We crossed a bridge over a dried up river so the habitat seemed good with thick riparian vegetation but also with a fair few blackberry bushes. Once we found the spot (a gravel parking area fringed by forest) we parked up and waited for some movement.

We waited for some time (as long as a 4 year old can sit still!) and then jumped out of the car to take a closer look. We skirted the fringing vegetation and quickly found this likely looking scat. While I can’t rule it out as Western grey kangaroo it had the features of a Quokka scat – size 1-2cm, cuboid and slightly flattened. These were also fresher than the ones I had previously found in the Canning Dam region.

When walking through the fringing vegetation we found we had we had to be careful even with the small little seedlings on the ground as they were often Blackberries with nasty thorns.

We headed towards the bridge and we heard something mid-sized move suddenly in the vegetation but it was too thick to see properly. Given the likely scat I think this is my unconfirmed closest encounter with a mainland Quokka – but I will have to try again! 🙂

Heading back to the car we found this amazing bug – the wonderful iNaturalist & awesome bug ID app MyPestGuide Reporter – run by the Agriculture Department’s entomologists on the hunt for the next nasty pest! Through both avenues it was ID’d as a Red-banded seed eating bug (Melanerythrus mactans).

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Red-headed seed-eating bug @ Jarrahdale

Searching for Quokkas at Canning dam…

I am currently behind on my posts – so this is actually from January!

I decided to continue my hunt for mainland Quokka’s (Setonix brachyurus) in the greater Perth region. Despite what most people are aware of – they don’t only live on Rottnest Island where they are easy to find, they can also be found on the mainland, but are much rarer and cryptic. I have looked in the Canning dam area before as I found a paper and it listed
Midgegoroo National Park as one of the trapping sites where they had caught animals. My brother was down from Port Hedland and he was keen to join me as well for a late night spotlight.

We started off looking for herps in the Canning Dam proper – parking near the gate and walking up the road looking for eyeshine. It took some time walking around before we found our first Barking gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii).

Barking gecko @ Canning Dam

We then headed further down towards Albany Hwy to my Quokka spot – I was pleased to have company as it’s an isolated spot. On the way we found a freshly road-killed Carpet python (Morelia spilota) – such a shame. There must be a few around as this is the second dead specimen I have found and my friend Jimmy found one on a previous trip.

We drove down a gravel track and parked as close as to the location as we could. I have had information from a scientist that Quokka’s are found in West facing streams in riparian vegetation – which means it’s tough to get through. We spotted a couple of kangaroos in the distance and heard the yipping of a fox but didn’t see any Quokka – strike 2!

We found some scat that I can’t say is 100% Quokka but the size seems right and it was cubic and slightly flattened.

We also found some diggings and then scat which I believe is feral pig.

An interesting night in the correct habitat for Quokka’s but I think if any were around they would have disappeared as we came crashing through the thick scrub! Another observation was this cricket that I am hoping to get a proper ID on iNaturalist – currently thought to be one of the Raspy cricket family (Gryllacrididae).

We had a good night – perhaps a hint of a Quokka but I need to keep looking for a confirmed sighting and photo!

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 🙂

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