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.

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.

 

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 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!

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.