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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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!  

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!

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.

Busselton holiday – tales of herps, underwater & possums..

Last weekend we enjoyed an extra long weekend at a holiday house in Busselton with my wife, 2 kids and my mom-in-law.

It started well from a wildlife point of view, as I parked outside our house to collect the keys I saw a new species of skink – southwest cool skink.

Later that afternoon we discovered we had a resident King skink pair that slept behind a plant pot just on our front porch and spent the late afternoon sunning itself there – not sure where they spent the rest of the day but we did see one in the back garden.  They were very camera shy and the kids also wanting to see didn’t help me!

We also had quite a few bobtails out and about – we had a pair being friendly in the garden just next to the carport.

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I see you and I need some privacy!

That night we took advantage of my mom-in-law babysitting our baby and my wife, Liam and I went to the possum trail I have blogged about before – see blog for directions.  We kitted up with headtorches, cameras and mozzie repellent.

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Ready to go!

We didn’t see possums straight away – our first sighting was this spider and pair of tawny frogmouth.

Liam was having a great time looking for critters in all places like this hollow log.  He did say he saw bears!

We then saw our first Western ringtail possums – all up about 15 that night.

…..then followed by some roos.

And some brushtail possums – they look quite different from the ringtails – especially the ears.

The last possum sighting of the night was this cute mum & bub which completed our night out very nicely.

Western ringtail possum @ Busselton

On one of the days we took the train out to the end of the Busselton Jetty – one of the longest wooden jetties in the southern hemisphere – over a mile!  At the end of the jetty they have built an observatory in approx 8m of water.  I have dived the jetty before in the past but was keen to show the family.

We had a lovely time seeing heaps of marine life – Liam proudly pointing out a dead crab which he said was asleep on its back!  We all really enjoyed the observatory – while not a cheap thing to do – it was good to experience while on holiday and you are supporting the upkeep of the jetty.

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We had a lovely relaxing holiday – I got to see plenty of wildlife and better yet show my kids!

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

On a possum hunt with my son

Last weekend we went away as a family for a few nights to Busselton, about 3 hrs south of Perth.  I took the opportunity to take my 3 year old son spotlighting for possums now that its getting dark earlier and the weather was fine.  My son Liam was super excited to finally be going out with his Dad to hunt possums!  He was rugged up and had his own head torch – just like me!

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Dad and son ready to hunt possums!

The Busselton region is one of the strongholds of the vulnerable Western ringtail possum however the Peppermint tree habitat is being lost due to lots of development.  I have blogged about ringtails before here when I found them near Mandurah.  On this occasion I was heading to a purpose built possum spotlighting trail located within the Tuart forest with reflective markers on the trail.

Its near Wonnerup House on Layman Rd, Wonnerup (about 10km east of Busselton) next to the Malbup bird hide. Its pretty hard to find at night – many of the signs leading to it are not reflective.  We drove past it a couple of times but finally got there (there is a small gravel track off Layman Rd) and geared up.  In just the first few minutes we spotted our first ringtails!

Western ringtail possum @ Wonnerup, Busselton

Liam was so happy to see them – he said he loved them and wanted to touch one!  We also saw a few Common brushtail possums, lots of spiders and a solitary Western grey kangaroo.

I was really impressed how Liam coped with being out in the dark and cold – he collected plenty of sticks as ‘guns’!

Liam out possum hunting @ Wonnerup, Busselton

All in all we saw approx 15 ringtails, 10 brushies, heard a White-striped freetail bat and saw a kangaroo.  The trail is pretty easy to follow and there are plenty of informative signage along the way.  An awesome night with a 3 year old!  He kept talking about how much fun he had but did want to see another kangaroo which unfortunately didn’t happen.  I recommend taking your family of an evening to the trail to see possums for yourself!

In addition to our spotlighting night, the following night we heard crashing on the side of our cabin…. we had a visitor – another ringtail in Broadwater, East Busselton region.

 

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