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

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Possuming @ John Okey Park #5

Its been a little while since I last blogged – lots has gone on in my personal life – so that was priority and kept me from getting out.

Anyway I had met a guy from the US who hadn’t seen much of Australia’s wildlife and I offered to show him some possums – he is here only for a couple of months so we had to lock it in and negotiate the weather.

We went to John Okey Park in Gosnells which I have blogged about a few times.

This was my fifth visit and I have seen Common brushtail possums on every visit.  It was a cold, dry, July night and it started off slow – I thought they might be all hiding in their tree hollows!  We then started spotting quite a few possums.

It had been pretty wet for the week before and there were a few Moaning frogs around as well – we probably saw 4-5, spotting them from their dull greenish eyeshine.  I also heard a few slender tree frogs but didn’t go specifically looking for them.

We walked further down past the TAFE than I had been before seeing possums all the way along.

All up we probably saw 25-30 possums – a successful night!  Also I heard a few tales of the wildlife of the US – how Opossums don’t look as nice as our possums and I really would love to see wild bears!

 

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.

 

Burrowing frogs

Australia can be a pretty dry place with long periods without rain.  As a result a number of our frogs keep moist by hiding away in burrows and come out when conditions are suitable.

I have blogged previously about turtle frogs that spend much of their lives down burrows.  My friend Jimmy had great information where 2 species of burrowing frogs could be found at the same location after the first heavy rainfall in April – except that rain didn’t happen in Perth this year!  We had been waiting for some rain all through April and it was now May and some reasonable rain was forecast.

Jimmy and I headed down Brookton Hwy at night and just before where the Bibbulmun Track crosses the Hwy there is a smallish wetland of sorts.

As we parked the car we could hear a chorus of frogs – the Whooping frog (Heleioporus inornatus) – “whoop, whoop, whoop” as the name suggests.

and the Sand frog (Heleioporus psammophilus) – “put, put, put” – some liken it to an outboard motor.

We could hear both species calling but just couldn’t find any on the surface.  We found lots of excavations with holes and approaching carefully and waiting – you could often hear the frogs calling out of them!

We looked extensively but no evidence of frogs on the surface could be found – it was still pretty dry as the rainfall had been fairly light.  The previous year Jimmy had found Whooping frogs jumping on the highway!  We dug up a burrow where we could hear a Whooping frog and voila – one popped out of the sand.  We washed it down with a little water to reveal the uniform brown that is characteristic of the species.  Some of the 5 Heleioporus species can be a little hard to tell apart from just looks alone – the calls are a pretty good indication.

Whooping frog @ Ashendon, Brookton Hwy

We kept hunting for Sand frogs which look similar to Moaning frogs but the call is very different.  We dug a burrow which cork-screwed into the sand but we didn’t manage to follow it.  We will have to wait until next year!

I did see a nice spider but my photo doesn’t do it justice – I think this might be a communal family one but I didn’t take a photo of the mass of web at the top of this plant.

Anyway – that leaves 3 Heleioporus I am yet to see – the Sand frog as mentioned in this blog and also the Hooting frog and the Western spotted frog – both can be found further inland and I just need to keep searching in the right spots!

Alison Baird Reserve spotlighting

I met a couple of friends at the UWA flora reserve called Alison Baird Reserve, Wattle Grove – just off Welshpool Rd (cnr of Brook and Bickely Rd).  I had last come here in the mid 90s in my uni days and did some plant surveys.  Its a locked reserve so we had arranged special permission to visit.

Our main objective was to look for any mammals of an evening.  We thought we might see quenda, possums and small chance of maybe some others.

Professer Hans Lambers has this Youtube video on the reserve detailing how rich the flora is for such a small reserve.

We walked for approx 1.5hrs without seeing any mammals – the only animals we heard were calling Moaning frogs (Heleioporus eyrei).  We did see signs of ground spiders, rabbit diggings, rabbit scat and also wedge shaped quenda diggings.

I only took one photo of this Firewood banksia (Banksia menziesii) during the evening. We had looked carefully at a number of the flowering Banksia on the odd chance we might see a Honey possum (its a small striped mouse size marsupial that only eats nectar – on my bucket list of mammals to see!)

We all agreed it was nice to be out looking but this night was not a success if you’re only counting the animals you find.

 

Ringtails in Dawesville, Mandurah

The Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) is not as common as the Brushtail possum which I have seen many times and spoken about in this blog.  In fact the Western species is classified as vulnerable (some say they are endangered now) and the overall population is tending to decrease due to habitat loss, fragmentation and predation by pythons, feral cats & foxes.  They are pretty much aboreal (live in trees), eat mainly peppermint (Agonis flexuosa) leaves and make nests in trees called dreys (brushtails prefer tree hollows).  There main stronghold is in the Busselton region where they are often seen but much of their original habitat has been lost.

I got a tip off from my in-laws who were staying in Mandurah that they had possums outside their accommodation and after clarifying with them – they were ringtails!  I did some googling and found that Dawesville has the most Northern populations of ringtails.  These populations are meant to have come from a successful translocation from Yalgorup National Park and they have moved into this area.

My family and another were staying in Mandurah on the Easter Long Weekend.  Last year I convinced my mate Russ to go spotlighting at Paganoni Lake and all we saw was a roo and a Southern Boobook – when we had hopes of phascogale!  Anyway this year I thought the ringtails would be good target after the information I had received.

We headed out after getting the kids all in bed and leaving our wives behind.  The first thing we saw was this lovely Tawny Frogmouth.

Tawny Frogmouth @ Dawesville

We tried to get a photo of a cat (either roaming pet or feral) roaming a park by the estuary but it was very wary.

We then visited Warrungup Spring Reserve thinking there must be wildlife there.  We soon saw a brushtail possum on the ground dash up a tree, some sleeping kookaburras and a couple of roos.  No ringtails though.

We headed further south to our ringtail spot.  I am not going to specifically divulge the spot due to their conservation status (if you want to know contact me via the form on the about page).  On the way a quenda crossed the road in front of the car but didn’t hang around for a photo.

We then saw this pretty calm brushtail possum in a grassed area with a few rabbits that hid pretty quickly.

Brushtail @ Dawesville

We then went straight to our possum spot and found another brushtail just hanging out.  Just a few minutes later Russ spotted our first ringtail but it didn’t allow me to get a good photo as it was hidden by a fair amount of foliage.  We walked on and found another! and then another!  They look quite different from a brushtail possum but the giveaway is when you compare the tails – the white thin tail of the ringtail cf the brushy tail of the brushtail.

Western Ringtail Possum @ Dawesville

We saw many ringtails – probably 10-12 all up in trees along maybe 500m of road.

We did see this sad sight of a dead ringtail on the side of the road – possible roadkill while trying to cross.  Typically ringtails rarely travel on the ground but they can be forced to do so where there are breaks in the canopies.

Dead ringtail @ Dawesville

We also saw some other brushies and a feral rabbit.  We did hear overhead a White-striped free-tail bat – one of the only bats audible to the human ear.

The night was very successful from a wildlife spotting but we got back to our accommodation only to hear the dreaded gastro had hit some of the kids 😦

Western Ringtail Possum @ Dawesville

Urban Possums in Nedlands – North of the River this time..

I have been doing some research on NatureMap which is a mapping tool that DPaW produce containing information on flora and fauna observations throughout Western Australia.  I found a new location with recent sightings in Hollywood Reserve in Karrakatta.  Its only 5-6kms from the CBD, quite close to Kings Park and backs onto Karrakatta cemetery.

For the past year or so I have been a member of the WA Naturalist Club – before you ask, NO – not Naturist 🙂 but we do look at wildlife who don’t have any clothes on!  I have met a number of really interesting people who also have a love for the natural world.  Anyway this is my way of explaining where I met Maureen who wanted to come and spotlight with me.  I also invited my mum and Maureen’s husband John joined us.

We had a beautiful evening, dry, not too cold without a moon – all good signs for wildlife watching.  We were looking for Common Brushtail and in some areas of Perth they can be fairly common.

We met up at the reserve and we immediately saw a possum climbing up a large pine tree.  We also saw a few bat and nest boxes that have been installed in the reserve.

We then saw a couple of other possums that didn’t allow us to get very close.

We also saw quite a few ground spiders.

Common Brushtail Possum @ Hollywood Reserve

We didn’t realise the pair above we was a Mum and bub until we looked closer at the photo – cute!

Common Brushtail Possum @ Hollywood Reserve

Common Brushtail Possum @ Hollywood Reserve

All up in the reserve we guess we saw about 8 possums – they seemed more skittish than the ones I had previously seen in Gosnells.

At the end the evening we noticed this bat box and then when we looked closer could see a dead bat in it.

I asked a local bat expert his opinion and he thinks it might be a Gould’s Wattled Bat but he can’t be certain.

Anyway we walked for about 2 hours with some great sightings… I will have to keep exploring other locations 🙂

Urban Quenda..

I had heard from a colleague that there were Quenda in Victoria Gardens, Claisebrook Cove in East Perth – less than 2km from the Perth CBD.

The council have put signs up to let people know about them – see this twitter post.

So this week my brother and I went out looking for them.  Initially we didn’t find any on the grassed areas and in the first few garden beds – but just by the water underneath the bridge we found this guy scratching in the mulch in a garden bed.

In the photo on the left you can see a grub of some sort in his mouth.

The Quenda seemed pretty acclimatised to people – I imagine they might get fed as well?

I took some video but I need to improve my technique!

We heard something else in a bush nearby which I assume was another Quenda.  We then looked down along the river to see if we might get lucky and see a Rakali (native water rat).

My brother and I were pleased to see something for the evening in what we both thought was an unlikely spot for a native marsupial – amazing what can be found in the suburbs!

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

Urban Possums – Gosnells visit number 4!

I had promised to take my niece and nephew possum watching in the school holidays and just realised there was only a week left!

My sister-in-law, niece and nephew came out on a warm sunday evening to John Okey Park, Gosnells.  It took us a little while to see our first common brushtail possum but tonight we saw a couple on the ground which I had seen on my previous 3 trips – here, here & here.

I was trying out a new accessory for my flash called a better beamer – essentially it is a flash extender that allows me to use my 150-600mm lens.  Pretty unwieldy but allows for much closer up shots than the 100mm macro lens I had been using before.

We had a great night seeing all up approx 6-7 possums – fewer than my previous trips but it was much warmer than any time before.  Maybe they come out later on?

We saw this amazing spider on the walkway over the river.

And then finished off the night with my niece spotting this awesome juvenile possum.  I am sure this is one of the latest generations – last time I came there were lots of babies with mums.

Juvenile common brushtail possum @ Gosnells