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.

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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
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Spotlighting in Sydney

I had to go to Sydney for a work trip so I thought I needed to squeeze in a quick bit of wildlife watching.  I don’t really know any good places there so I posted on the Australian Mammal Watching facebook group a request for info.  One of the members Jayden kindly offered to take me to his local wetland saying he had seen 10+ mammal species there and could almost guarantee spotting a Common bentwing bat – cool!

I flew from Perth beyond early and got into Sydney at lunchtime.  I then headed on a bus an hour North to Warriewood Wetlands.  Jayden met me and we walked straight into the wetlands.  They have pretty much surrounded by housing but there is a lot of wildlife for a pretty small area – most of it has boardwalks and also dirt paths.

We immediately saw new birds for me – Eastern Yellow Robin, Brown Gerygone and even a Topknot Pidgeon which was supposedly rare for the region – we also saw a fair few Australia Brush-turkeys which I had seen in previous trips to Queensland.

We then went to the Common bentwing roost which was a under road stream crossing where the bats had taken up home in cracks between the large concrete pipes – you would never find them without local expert advice!  It was fiddly to get a shot and we really didnt want to disturb them before it was wakeup time! The bodies were mouse sized and there was 10-12 that we could see.

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Roosting bentwing bat

We then kept walking and then saw that the bats about 4-5 all up had woken up and were feeding with some Welcome Swallows – awesome to see with still some light in the sky.  It tried my bat detector a cheap one the “Bat Seeker 2”- I hadn’t been that happy with it previously but we could clearly hear the calls from the bats and also their call change when they had found some bug to target and catch.

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Common bentwing bat feeding

We then heard something crashing in the undergrowth and saw a juvenile swamp wallaby leap across the path and then stop to check us out.

It was getting darker and we saw a brushtail possum come of of its hollow and also a grey-headed fruit bat in the same tree – they were too far off for a photo.  We then spotted this Common (Eastern) ringtail possum that looked like it might be carrying young as the pouch looked full.

We kept walking looking for long-nosed bandicoot but only saw some feral rabbits.  We kept walking and then spotted this shy little long-nosed bandicoot – another new species for me!  We had also seen a domestic cat with a bell – sure it was up to no good in the reserve.

 

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Along another path I spotted a small grey mammal shoot up a tree – we got the light on it and Jayden said it was a Sugar gilder – Wow! It didnt stick around for a photo – I just got a empty tree trunk 😦 but we got 2 views of it gliding between trees.

We kept going looking out for rats to add some extra mammals and saw a little brown rat like thing jump from the ground onto a tree trunk – its body shape was all wrong for a black or brown rat – it was a Brown Antechinus!  No photos again as it hid itself very well.

We had checked out a few of the lakes there as Jayden had seen large-footed Myotis there before – its a type of fishing bat with big feet to catch fish off the water surface.  We hadn’t much luck at a few of them but then saw a fluttering kind of like a large moth but flying more like a bird – it was a Myotis – it didn’t catch anything from the surface but it was obviously catching insects on the wing.  Using the detector we could hear their calls and again the change when they had located something as they narrowed in to get its exact location.

I made a couple of recordings of the frog calls – mainly Common Eastern Froglets another Crinia species but also occasional Striped Marsh Frog we we saw some later on.

We spotted a black rat scurrying in the undergrowth and that was 11 species for the evening – the only one that Jayden had seen before that we missed was a Brown rat – which I didn’t mind missing.

This was another ringtail we saw that let us come very close.

Our list for the evening was (* show new lifers for me)

  • Common bentwing bat*
  • Large-footed myotsis*
  • Long-nosed bandicoot*
  • Swamp wallaby*
  • Sugar glider*
  • Brown antechinus*
  • Feral Rabbit
  • Domestic cat
  • Black rat
  • Brushtail possum
  • Common ringtail possum* – its a different species from the rarer west-coast one.

Just to round the evening off we saw a few Striped Marsh Frogs at the end of the evening – what a night – 4 hours of walking and I was stuffed but so many new things!  I then caught the bus back to my Sydney hotel…

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Striped Marsh Frog