Tutanning nature reserve with the WA Nats

In Sept 2019 the WA Naturalists arranged an excursion to Tutanning Nature Reserve (just over 2hrs from Perth, East of Pingelly) – one of the Wheatbelt’s under-visited reserves compared to Dryandra Woodland or Boyagin Nature Reserve. The reserve is 220 ha – remnant Kwogan shrubland with more than 300 species of flora and a vital fauna refuge. It is an island in amongst the cleared agricultural land of the wheatbelt. The reserve is managed by the Parks & Wildlife service of DBCA.

When the excursion was suggested it was recognised I had been before (see blog) so I was asked to lead the excursion and my friend Tanya offered to assist 🙂 We had 12 people attend all up (6 visitors and 1 member) attending their first excursion, an overnight trip.

We stayed at the Percy Marshall Field Station within the reserve. The google map can be found below.

Percy Marshall Field Station

For additional information on the reserve follow these links from the Shire of PingellyTutanning NR & Percy Marshall Field Station (includes track map). It can be booked for a small fee by contacting the Narrogin office of DBCA.

We met at the field station for lunch and explored the building and facilities. I set up my swag on the verandah but there are two rooms with bunks beds and can accommodate 10 people. In addition, there is a kitchen area and toilet/bathroom surrounded by a verandah. Water is supplied from tanks that you need to pump and power comes from a supplied generator.

There were a number of really interesting signs on the verandah telling about the history of the reserve and the field station.

Once we had most people together we went for a drive. The plan was to drive slowly looking for numbats as they are present in low numbers in the reserve, but there are few reported sightings. We didn’t come across any numbats, but on the first drive saw a couple of echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

A couple of people found a huge fungi but I got distracted by a large granite outcrop where we found number a of variegated dtella (Gehyra variegata) underneath rocks. While lifting rocks is a great way to find herps, it is critical to put them back in exactly the same position as it is crucial habitat that is easily disturbed.

We headed back to the field station to prepare dinner and enjoyed a lovely sunset from the verandah as it set over adjacent farmland.

Sunset from field station @ Tutanning Nature Reserve

Once we had enjoyed dinner and some wine we headed out for a nightstalk with a plan to head up to the nearby dam to look for frogs and anything else we might find. Bleating froglet (Crinia pseudinsignifera) and Western Banjo frogs (Limnodynastes dorsalis) were heard in the dam but none seen clearly. Many spiders were seen as their eyes are highly visible under spotlight.

After the walk a few joined me for a night drive – I was hoping for red-tailed) phascogale (Phascogale calura) and tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) as they were seen on my previous visit. We headed up to Tammar Rd, adaptly named road as this was the location of the previous sightings. We parked in a clearing and walked along the road and spotted a lovely Western spotted frog (Heleioporus albopunctatus).

Western spotted frog @ Tutanning Nature Reserve

We headed back with no sightings of any nocturnal mammals, but just after turning off Tammar Rd, we were rewarded with a pair of Tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) in amongst pink everlastings.

Tammar amongst everlastings @ Tutanning Nature Reserve
Tammar wallaby @ Tutanning Nature Reserve

The next day I woke early, enjoyed breakfast on the balcony and the surrounding bushland.

Bush surrounding the field station @ Tutanning Nature Reserve

We decided to do the Tutanning walk trail which is a 6km moderate Class 3 walk loop that starts at the field station. It has a number of reflective trail markers and interpretative signs. I have included the signs in the images below.

We walked through Sheoaks and found a number of Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava), Sugar orchid (Caladenia saccharata) and saw a few birds as well.

We then headed through a section with impressive Proteaceae.

Next we came to some higher ground with wandoo woodland – good habitat for numbats and echidna, however no numbats were seen. We did find a very fresh dead fox – possibly a victim of 1080 poisoning. The reserve is baited to protect the native fauna.

We walked through a number of granite outcrops with some amazing moss and climbing Drosera plants with lovely white flowers.

We were on the home stretch of the walk and we came across a number of Echnida – we assume they were either congregating for an echidna train or resting afterwards. It’s an amazing mating behaviour when many males will follow a single female in a single file line! Count how many you can see!

It was so amazing to see so many together. We had been pleased with just the 2 other single sightings the day before. I managed to get a little video of the action as they were all quite active. We kept our distance as we didn’t want to disturb them but one came right up to our group before ambling off!

I managed to get a few photos of the underneath of an echidna while it was climbing a branch showing the spineless furry bottom and amazing claws.

Below you can see evidence of the echidna diggings for termites – they leave a lot of ground disturbed.

Echnida diggings @ Tutanning nature reserve

After this amazing sight we finished the walk buzzing! It’s a great walk and I recommend it. It’s very isolated so you want to ensure you keep safe with friends knowing where you are and proper supplies if you get into trouble.

We returned to the hut and started packing up. In the kitchen we found this interesting diagram of the mosaic fire history of the reserve.

We also enjoyed looking through the visitors book and added our own entry.

We then followed the leaving instructions for the hut and left the reserve. On the way out we found this Fox den (identified by the musty pungent smell) and rabbit warren (copious rabbit droppings).

We all had an amazing weekend and I received a lot of positive feedback. Joan wrote up the club report which can be found here .

Herping with kids at Sullivan Rock

The WA Naturalists held an excursion in August 2019 to Sullivan Rock. It’s worth checking out the club if you are interested in learning more about nature and meeting like-minded people.

Sullivan rock is found within the Monodocks conservation park. Its a large granite outcrop with Jarrah forest surrounding.

I decided to bring both my kids – Liam (5) and Sienna (nearly 3) as they love getting out into nature and it would give my lovely wife some rare time to herself. 2 others joined the excursion – so just a small group but perhaps best with 2 rowdy kids!

It was a lovely clear day but a little on the cool side. We were hoping for herps but cooler conditions are not condusive to seeing them out on the rocks.

The kids were excited and Liam remembered an earlier trip where he had seen some wildlife underneath rocks. Rock flipping is one way to find critters especially when its a cool day – but we must remember these are their homes so it is critical to replace the rock exactly as found. Rocky outcrops are places that, while they might not seem it, are fragile habitats. So driving on rocks, stacking rocks or taking them home all affect the fauna and fauna that live there.

The car park is on Albany Highway and directions can be found here, then head carefully across the highway and follow a small segment of the Bibbulmun track.

The kids enjoyed the walk in – I gave them instructions to walk on the bare rock and not the moss patches. The moss only hangs onto the bare granite rock face and is therefore very fragile.

Amongst the moss patches other plants were found such as Coral lichen (Cladia sp.), a grey lichen with Resurrection Plants (or Pincushions, Borya sphaerocephala) – the spiky plants seen on the right hand side. During dry periods they look pretty much dead.

On the top of the outcrop we found a number of pools with aquatic fauna and the kids were pleased to find some tadpoles. We were unsure of the species but likely to be Crinia sp. The kids were fascinated to watch water boatman ‘paddle’ around the pond.

We crossed to the other side of the rock stopping for some morning tea. It’s important to keep snack levels high. We found some climbing sundew or Drosera which the kids were fascinated to learn is insectivorous. The cups produce an insect attractant but the surrounding sticky tentacles will curl in to trap any hapless insect that gets into the cup.

On the way back more pool exploring was required with more tadpoles found.

We kept carefully checking rocks as we were hopeful to find some brumating (reptile version of hibernating) Ornate dragon lizards (Ctenophorus ornatus) but none were found this time. The easily accessible parts of the rock get a fair amount of traffic and are disturbed.

In amongst the grey lichen we noticed some tiny orchids only 3-4cms tall.

We then headed for home. The kids had so much fun and thoroughly enjoyed being out exploring in nature.

Ringtails in Dalyellup

Liam, my 4 year old son and I, went to stay with my good old friend Daz & family – mostly to see them but also to look for Western ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) they have in their garden and the adjacent remnant Tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) forest in Dalyellup, just south of Bunbury.

The Western ringtail possum has been classified as critically endangered in 2018.  Some sobering reading in this article – the Western ringtail has a 25% chance of extinction in the next 20 years and has the somewhat dubious honour of being in position 11 of the Top 20 Mammals at risk in Australia.  While I have to trust the experts – it seems a little strange for something I can find fairly easily and have blogged about in a couple of other locations (follow the possum category below to find them).

It’s a 2 hour drive south from Perth and Liam handled the drive very well.  We settled in and then Daz took us with his son to the Bunbury wildlife park.  It is a council run park with mainly native animals and encourages animal interaction with suitable species – its a great place to take the kids if you are in the area.

Liam loved feeding the birds and kangaroos.

They have a really nice selection of natives including tammar wallaby as below, quokka, wombat, red & grey kangaroos, potoroo, dingo and a small selection of reptiles & frogs.

That evening we geared up, dressed warmly and headed out to find some possums just after the sun had gone down – Liam was super excited!  Our first possum was sighted in the front yard of the house!

Western ringtail possum @ Dalyellup

We then headed into the Tuart forest which is mixed with Peppermints (Agonis flexuosa) & Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) trees.

All up we saw approx 6 possums in a small section walking for under an hour – I had been hoping for other species as Daz has previously seen a Brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa) in the area, but no luck this time.  Liam was pretty tired by about 8pm (an hour past normal bedtime!) so we headed for home and bed.

The next morning we went down to The Lakes also in Dalyellup for a walk and see some birds.

It was a lovely sunny morning and we could hear plenty of Rattling frogs (Crinia glauerti) and Banjo frogs (Limnodynastes dorsalis). I made a recording on my phone and submitted it to the great citizen science project FrogID.  I encourage everyone to download the app on your smartphone and record frogs wherever you hear them!  We saw some nice birds.

Just as we were on the other side we noticed a possum drey (they make a nest of leaves to sleep during the day).  Daz has noticed that the openings generally face North-West which we surmised why that might be.  He has experimented making one out of 2 hanging baskets joined together filled with coconut fibre and peppermint leaves – and had an inhabitant for a period in his garden!

We then went for a quick look in the tuart forest looking for herps under the leaf litter using a rake.  We also lifted rocks, bark and wood – always being careful to put it back where we found it.  No herps found but we did find a nice centipede that I didn’t get a photo of.

Liam and I then headed back home to Perth to see my wife Mel & daughter Sienna.  We had an awesome weekend and Liam loved Daz’s son and especially his Lego and treehouse!

Exploring Ferguson Valley

My family took a short farmstay in Ferguson Valley in the aptly named Ferguson Farmstay.  We wanted to do something special for Liam my 2 year old – just before his baby sister arrives in Oct.  He loves animals and is an up and coming twitcher – he can identify 7-8 different birds but everything black and white is a Magpie.  It makes me pretty proud when he points and says IBIS!

Liam had a great time with the animals and experienced a little of the farm life.

I managed to get out a couple of nights.  The first night I went spotlighting around the farm – they said there was some wildlife around but it was a cold, wet night – perfect for frogs but not really appealing for mammals.  I heard heaps of Quacking Frogs with the odd Clicking Frog as well.

It took me a little while to find them but they were hiding in a roadside ditch right next to the farm!  I think the top left image might be a Clicking Froglet but I didn’t get a shot of its belly to tell it apart from the Quackers..

I found heaps of frogs that night – most of them where near  where the farm leaves a lot of junk and machinery – not entirely pristine frog habitat!

On the middle day I had a great time watching a Nankeen Kestrel soaring over the valley below our shallow – later I saw a Black-shouldered Kite but wasn’t able to get a shot.  I was pleased with the kestrel!


On the 3rd night I went into the start of Wellington National Park just near the parking for the Mt Leonard Mountain biking.

I managed to spot a nice brushtail possum.

I also saw 3 Western Grey Kangaroos but they were too far off to get a decent shot.  I also spotted this motorbike frog with just eyeshine.


On getting towards the end I saw another possum that I managed to get a little closer to before it went high into the tree.

I then left did some more frog recordings where there must have been water on private land – this was from the road.

I finally then looked for more frogs at the farmstay.

On the last day we had a little visitor to our chalet outdoor area – a Welcome Swallow (though not that welcomed here!) – ignoring the fake kite that was meant to scare them away!


All in all a great few days away – next time I will have to put in some more research into where in the national park to go – the mountain bike trail was right at the edge of the NP and probably had fewer animals than somewhere deeper in.


More Frogging at Wellard

It was going to be another wet, cold night – so perfect to get out looking for frogs.  I tried to arrange 2 of my brothers to join but only Leif could make it – Joel said he was too tired!  Leif wanted to see Slender Tree Frogs and I was keen to try Wellard Wetlands again as I hadn’t seen the Squelching Froglets the first time I came here.

We headed out to the aptly named Frog Pond at the wetlands and could immediately hear the chorus of Slender Tree Frogs and Squelching Froglets which I made a recording of.

The water level was up so all the grass that was dry last time had water underneath it.  This made spotting the frogs much harder as they had that much more cover.  We looked for some time – my previous experience not really helping.  Leif found the first frog  after maybe 30 minutes or so – a Slender Tree Frog (Litoria adelaidensis) – which slipped away as I came for a closer look.  It came back out of hiding a while later.


We had heard other Slenders calling in the grass and taking a look we found this Spider (Wolf I think?) taking its whole family of spiderlings for a walk – amazing sight!


I then got lucky and saw a flash of movement in the pond – another species – a Squelching Froglet! I got a photo in the pond and then moved it for better shots. A pretty small frog only about 2cm long and really makes a noisy call!

Leif found another Slender which we were able to relocate for some better photos.


I really like the pose the Slender is working

And then we called it a night – success – Slenders for Leif and I had finally found the Squelching.  That’s 3 Criniaspecies and 2 Litoria in a couple of months.


Frogging for Slender Tree Frogs

I went out on Sun 12 June out with my new buddy I had met through a mutual contact from mammalwatching.com (a great site for all things mammals).  It was good night for frogging in the west – cold and wet – luckily it started to dry up as we parked up.

He had asked if I wanted to see Slender Tree Frogs (Litoria adelaidensis)  at Alcoa Wellard Wetlands – old tailing dams that have been converted into a wetland – a great place for birding by day and frogging by night!  I was keen and the weather was bad just like we needed it to be!  We parked at the Bertenshaw Rd carpark, just off St Albans Rd, Wellard – just outside the main entrance to the wetlands.

I pulled on my wellies but my buddy had waders – this was a sign things were going to be wet!

We walked in and almost straight away saw a motorbike frog just sitting on the path.  I didn’t get a photo as I had seen such a nice one the week before.

We headed down to one of the shallow ponds and could hear frogs really calling (follow the link to hear my SoundCloud recording).  You could hear the harsh ‘Grrrrrrk’ of the Slender Tree Frog and the “OOoo EEee” of the Squelching Froglets (Crinia insignifera) (it reminded me if the cricket chant “OOoo Ahh……  Glenn McGrath”).

I wasn’t initially able to to spot the frogs but you could hear them calling all over – in true style they sensibly stopped when you got close and the light affected them.  My buddy found a slender tree frog and helped to point out how they hang out hidden in the reeds with just their head out of the water calling for a girl to hookup with!


Found insitu – hidden among the reeds


Caught and moved for a better photo – not happy!


Shame I didn’t have the eye in focus here but the skin detail on the flank amazing!

Once I had my eye in I was able to find one for myself.  Almost impossible to see by the casual observer – also if you moved in the water too quickly they would disappear under.  The pond wasn’t too deep for my wellies but waders will be needed for anything deeper or muddier!

I looked all over trying to find the Squelching Froglets – they are pretty small (only getting to 2.5cm) and call from the shallow water – I am sure they were among the submerged grass and impossible to spot – I just need to keep trying 🙂

We tried another pond that was just a muddy surface and then called it a night.

On the way home I spotted a Barn Owl in the car headlights sitting on a fence post.  I saw it driving and turned back for confirmation.  It was beautiful, staring right at me before flying off silently before I could get the camera out.

A great night with a new species photographed and another call recorded!


Frogging at Lesmurdie Falls

My trusty brother and I went out last night (06/06/2016) in the pouring rain, fog and cold – good frogging weather! We were hoping to see Hooting Frog (Heleioporus barycragus) – I had heard they had been calling in the area.

Just heading down the path we found a nice large Motorbike frog (Litoria moorei) enjoying the weather – while we looked like drowned rats!  We left the proper camera in the car so I apologise about some of the phone camera shots.


Motorbike frog (Litoria moorei)

We headed onto some little goat tracks, crossed the stream and then promptly got lost!  We could hear Quacking Frog (Crinia georgiana) but always off the track and also went quiet – much like our experience a couple of weeks before at Whistlepipe Gully.  We walked all the way to the bottom car park and then returned via the official track.  On the way we spotted this gnarly spider out hunting – or maybe looking somewhere dry!  Not sure what it is but had huge front fangs.

We also spotted this little flower which was braving the weather as well – maybe not as impressive during the day but looked pretty cool under torchlight.


Some nice views of the city from the waterfall lookout.


The city lights

My brother had said he wanted to see one more frog and he would be happy.  We hadn’t heard any of the deep calls from the Hooting frog – so that had been a dip.  Just before we got back to the car park I spotted a tiny grey frog in the middle of the concrete path – after a closer look we called it a Quacking frog – due to the red markings on the thighs – we noted it had smaller forearms than the one from Whistlepipe gully – so we called it a female as they don’t have to do the WWF wrestling that the fellas get up to at mating season.


Quacking Frog – red on the thigh can just be spotted.

All in all a good night – very wet – but made good by a warming dram of whisky and choc before heading back home.

Frogging – the Quacking Frog

On a wet saturday night in late May I persuaded my brother to come out in the cold and wet and look for frogs – the clincher was a promise of whisky after to warm up!

I had been at a WA Naturalists talk by WA Museum‘s Paul Doughty – Curator of Herpetology.  He inspired me to get out when it is cold and wet as that in when you find frogs in the South-West of WA – frogging in a beanie I recall him mentioning!

He had said there had been Hooting Frog Heleioporus barycragus heard at Lesmurdie falls recewntly so I thought we might head to a spot nearby – Whistlepipe Gully – at the end of Lewis Rd. Forrestfield (just off Welshpool Rd).

As we arrived we could hear Quacking Frogs Crinia georgiana – but they all went quiet as we moved towards them.  Unperturbed we walked alongside the stream thinking we heard Hooting Frog higher into the bush areas.  No frogs were seen – despite lots of looking and waiting patiently in the dark – the frogs are sneakier than us amateur froggers!

At one point we knew why the frogs were quiet – a Tawny Frogmouth had flown in and was checking out a late night supper.


Blurry Shot of a Tawny Frogmouth

We kept at it for about an hour and a half in quite a lot of rain – it kept happening – we heard frogs and as we approached they shut up and we couldn’t spot them – our technique needs some serious refining.  I was trying out my new headtorch – Led Lenser H14.2 – it worked really well.

At this point the whisky was sounding pretty good as it had been raining much of the time.  We jumped into the car and my eagle eyed brother spotted something in the car headlights – definitely hopping.  We investigated and found a Quacking Frog – yes one of the ones we had been trying to find all this time!  Photos taken then back to the car for a warming whisky!  Successful night – no Hooting Frog but yes to Quacking Frog.



Looking for Wambenger

I had read a couple of months earlier that Simon Cherriman had seen a Wambenger (Brush-tailed Phascogale Phascogale tapoatafa) at the end of a guided bird tour.  This is a critter I have been wanting to see for many years.  The exact location wasn’t given but was in the Perth Hills region.  A couple of months later I got another email from a different source that mentioned they had a Phascogale hanging around – Bingo – I had a pretty good idea where now!

My new mammal watching buddy joined me on a still, nearly moonless mid May evening – perfect conditions.

We walked for approx 2 hours – seeing about 4-5 Western Grey Kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) and a couple of brush-tailed possums I couldn’t get shots of as they were too high in the trees.


We found a nice Bleating Frog (Crinia pseudinsignifera) just by a pond (identified by its call) and couldn’t get a great shot of this Motorbike Frog (Litoria moorei) as it hopped into a hole too fast for us.

Just as we were heading to the car to call it a night my buddy heard something in the trees – success!! It was a Wambenger and it moved fast in the tree..

We got a few average shots but really didn’t want to disturb it.

A great night of spotlighting with 3 different mammals and 2 frogs – all very close to a capital city.  The location I will also keep quiet as it is great to see – its pretty close to Perth and too much activity would surely bother it.

One last point – we did find this scat that we haven’t been able to ID – some have suggested it might be a Quenda – we didn’t see any but might be a possibility.


Unidentified scat – approx 5cm long