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

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Looking for Rakali – dip

On wednesday night 1 June 2016 I went out looking for Rakali (formerly known as a Water Rat – a native rodent Hydromys chrysogaster).  On the west coast they tend to be harder to see than on the east coast and are more nocturnal.  They can get over 1kg & 30cm long and are semi-aquatic with webbed feet.  They are larger than the introduced black & brown rat, paler on the underneath and have a distinct white tip on their tail.  Indications of their presence can be found; webbed footprints and feeding middens (they often will feed on the same platform and the shells, etc build up over time.  All this I know only from research – I am still yet to see one and this night was a chance.  It was a pretty cold, clear evening in early June at about 8pm – perhaps not the best conditions.

I had been given advice from citizen science surveys that one of the most frequent sightings of Rakali are made on the Canning River near Doric St, Shelley, Perth (follow the link for the report).

I walked up and down the river – using my headtorch to look in the reeds, out into the water and on the little beaches.  I heard plenty of noises but I think they were just birds playing with me.  I heard some rustles in the reeds and splashing but couldn’t determine they weren’t fish.

I looked for about 2 and half hours with no luck this time – to use a bird twitching term – dip!  I will just have to keep at it.  I saw a couple of birds roosting in the trees and saw a few roosting in shallow sections of the river.