Searching for Quokka in Jarrahdale..

I have been looking for mainland Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) for sometime and saw information that people had found some in Jarrahdale. While they were careful not to disclose the exact location I saw some facebook chat about a location a little out of the main strip of Jarrahdale where people had seen Quokka in the mornings, so wanted to check it out.

I took my 4 year old son Liam for a drive hoping we might get lucky and find some Quokka’s enjoying breakfast. We took off a little later than planned but made good time to the location.


We crossed a bridge over a dried up river so the habitat seemed good with thick riparian vegetation but also with a fair few blackberry bushes. Once we found the spot (a gravel parking area fringed by forest) we parked up and waited for some movement.

We waited for some time (as long as a 4 year old can sit still!) and then jumped out of the car to take a closer look. We skirted the fringing vegetation and quickly found this likely looking scat. While I can’t rule it out as Western grey kangaroo it had the features of a Quokka scat – size 1-2cm, cuboid and slightly flattened. These were also fresher than the ones I had previously found in the Canning Dam region.

When walking through the fringing vegetation we found we had we had to be careful even with the small little seedlings on the ground as they were often Blackberries with nasty thorns.

We headed towards the bridge and we heard something mid-sized move suddenly in the vegetation but it was too thick to see properly. Given the likely scat I think this is my unconfirmed closest encounter with a mainland Quokka – but I will have to try again! 🙂

Heading back to the car we found this amazing bug – the wonderful iNaturalist & awesome bug ID app MyPestGuide Reporter – run by the Agriculture Department’s entomologists on the hunt for the next nasty pest! Through both avenues it was ID’d as a Red-banded seed eating bug (Melanerythrus mactans).

20190304-2019-03-04 08.35.22
Red-headed seed-eating bug @ Jarrahdale

Numbat survey at Boyagin Nature Reserve with Project Numbat

My buddy Jimmy had been talking for a while about the annual numbat surveys he helped with, for Project Numbat and Parks & Wildlife Service (part of DBCA).  I had been interested for a while but with little kids it’s a huge ask to leave my wife with the kids all weekend, this year the ever gracious Mel was happy for me to join the team.

Jimmy had been instrumental in my first sighting of numbat and it wasn’t an ordinary quick glimpse but an extended viewing of a pair just before mating.  It was my 4th time trying to see them which gives an idea of the rarity and how difficult they can be to find.

Project Numbat survey both Boyagin Nature Reserve and Dryandra Woodland once a year.  Project Numbat are a not for profit group with a focus on community awareness and conservation of the numbat.  The type of survey we would be conducting was a digging survey as just visual surveys can miss animals and they leave distinctive markings when they forage for termites which persist.

Jimmy and I headed down once I had the kids mostly ready for bed.  We would be staying at the lovely Lions Dryandra Woodland Village and travelling to Boyagin daily which is about 30 minutes away.  We got there after dark and couldn’t help but go for a spotlight – we were hopeful for Pygmy possum that Jimmy had seen in some flowering bushes a year earlier and also after a couple of trips Jimmy had made earlier in the week.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the evening for Pygmy’s but we found a couple of lovely Woylie (Bettongia penicillata) in the area.

We headed back to Lions Village to get some sleep as we had a full day of surveying the next day.

We got up and had breakfast with the other volunteers.  Also joining us was Dr Tony Friend from Parks & Wildlife – Mr Numbat himself!  We had six of us in total and split into 2 parties and headed out to Boyagin to make a start for the day.  My group comprised of Tamara (President of Project Numbat) and Jimmy. 

First task of the day was to practice in identifying numbat diggings – they are quite small, not too deep, discrete diggings without a mound of dirt.  These are left after exposing termites in their galleries just beneath the surface and licking them with their long tongues – they are also often grouped in a run as the numbat follows the food in the galleries – see below photo.  Other diggings that need to be ruled out are the following:

  • Woylie (deeper v shaped hunting for underground truffles) – often earth left mounded
  • Quenda (funnel shaped)
  • Rabbits (often with scat present)
  • Echidna (messy often covering a large area)

The survey consisted of driving to pre-defined locations and then the group surveying an area of 100m radius for a period of 10 mins.  If diggings were found others confirmed or disagreed.  Once located, a quick search was also made for numbat scat – hard, quite heavy black with shiny bits of termite exoskeleton inside.   The locations are spread out throughout the blocks of Boyagin and allow year-to-year comparisons of numbats.  Records were kept on Project Numbat Toughbooks in a GIS application.

It was rewarding to find evidence of numbat foraging and also noting how you can tell if a site habitat was more ‘numbatty’ depending on the vegetation and fallen trees present.

We saw plenty of Gould’s sand goannas (Varanus gouldii) crossing the tracks and also got a glimpse of a black-headed monitor (Varanus tristis) but it didn’t stay for photos!

We came together for morning tea & lunch and it was nice to hear how the other group were getting on.  They, like us, had some sites with repeat records of numbats from previous years, some had new records where they hadn’t been found before, and some sites that previously had diggings but didn’t this time.  Such is the way of scientific survey.

We finished off the day’s surveys feeling like we had made great progress – setting ourselves up well for the next day. Tamara cooked an amazing green chicken curry with rice which went down a treat after all the work of the day. Just before dinner one of the team mentioned they had seen a Gould’s goanna just outside our cottage.

That night the rest of the team were going to settle in for a relaxing night and enjoy some well earned beverages, but Jimmy & I we wanted to see more wildlife. We headed out as it got dark going back again to our Pygmy possum spot – with still no luck! We had a very nice viewing of a Tawny frogmouth that just stayed put. We also saw the usual collection of Woylies, Brushtail possums and Western grey kangaroos. We also spotted a nice Western spotted frog. Highlights were spotting a couple of Chuditch – in a couple of hotspots that seem to have animals every visit – no photos as the animals were skittish that night.

We headed to the sandalwood plantation previously mentioned to see if we might see Red-tailed phascogale, and it’s always good for Woylie. Many woylie were seen and Jimmy saw an Echidna that I didn’t see. Hitting the carpark I found this beautifully marked Wheatbelt stone gecko (Diplodactylus granariensis) – a new species for me. We headed back knowing we had another full on day tomorrow.

The second day Jimmy & I were with Tony Friend (numbat guru). We changed plan this day deciding not to meet for morning tea but would meet for lunch at one of the dams. Discussions with Tony were great and I learnt lots about many topics!

At one point we were just heading for a corner where two tracks met and Tony calls “Numbat! and I would like to catch it”! It bolted, as did Jimmy, who hadn’t seen it from the back seat but was doing his best to find it… Unfortunately it was too fast and this was our only sighting of the weekend. Tony will sometimes attach radio collars or make an assessment of the general condition of the animal, so not just catching for fun.

I learnt heaps from chats with Tony and totally enjoyed the day. We caught up for lunch and learnt that the other team had seen a carpet python which Jimmy had been dying to see – but no luck for him this weekend! We headed out after lunch completing the last few sites before finishing for the day around 2pm. We took some team photos before we headed back to Perth. A great weekend all round – I learnt heaps, met amazing new people and had lots of time in the bush!  

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.

Busselton holiday – tales of herps, underwater & possums..

Last weekend we enjoyed an extra long weekend at a holiday house in Busselton with my wife, 2 kids and my mom-in-law.

It started well from a wildlife point of view, as I parked outside our house to collect the keys I saw a new species of skink – southwest cool skink.

Later that afternoon we discovered we had a resident King skink pair that slept behind a plant pot just on our front porch and spent the late afternoon sunning itself there – not sure where they spent the rest of the day but we did see one in the back garden.  They were very camera shy and the kids also wanting to see didn’t help me!

We also had quite a few bobtails out and about – we had a pair being friendly in the garden just next to the carport.

2017-11-05 12.46.05

I see you and I need some privacy!

That night we took advantage of my mom-in-law babysitting our baby and my wife, Liam and I went to the possum trail I have blogged about before – see blog for directions.  We kitted up with headtorches, cameras and mozzie repellent.

2017-11-04 19.03.24

Ready to go!

We didn’t see possums straight away – our first sighting was this spider and pair of tawny frogmouth.

Liam was having a great time looking for critters in all places like this hollow log.  He did say he saw bears!

We then saw our first Western ringtail possums – all up about 15 that night.

…..then followed by some roos.

And some brushtail possums – they look quite different from the ringtails – especially the ears.

The last possum sighting of the night was this cute mum & bub which completed our night out very nicely.

Western ringtail possum @ Busselton

On one of the days we took the train out to the end of the Busselton Jetty – one of the longest wooden jetties in the southern hemisphere – over a mile!  At the end of the jetty they have built an observatory in approx 8m of water.  I have dived the jetty before in the past but was keen to show the family.

We had a lovely time seeing heaps of marine life – Liam proudly pointing out a dead crab which he said was asleep on its back!  We all really enjoyed the observatory – while not a cheap thing to do – it was good to experience while on holiday and you are supporting the upkeep of the jetty.

2017-11-06 10.01.13

We had a lovely relaxing holiday – I got to see plenty of wildlife and better yet show my kids!

Piney Lakes – revisit

I had some spare time during the day and thought it would be nice to see some mammals if I could.  I previously saw Quenda during the day at Piney Lakes, Winthrop – so I thought I should head back.  I timed my visit during a dry window on a July day – I actually saw a little sun which was nice.  I parked at the Environment education centre which is just off Leach Hwy (the carpark is closed weekends).

I headed for the wetland walk which is a boardwalk where I saw Quenda last time.  I walked a long way through a number of different paths and around the lake – but only heard a noise in a bush by the path which could have been a Quenda – I didn’t spot any :(.

I got a couple of nice bird shots but it was lovely to be out during the day anyway.  And perhaps Piney Lakes isn’t a dead cert for Quenda  like I thought it was – or perhaps the inclement weather had them in their burrows.

This is a Western wattlebird – not as well known as the more common Red wattlebird.

And this Willy wagtail posed just in front of me.  All in all it was a nice day to be walking through bush.

Willy wagtail @ Piney Lakes.

 

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!

2017-06-04 18.01.36

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.

 

My blog – one year on!

Today marks one year since I have been blogging and I thought it was a good time for some reflection and also planning for the next year!  Above are a few of the photos of the wildlife I have seen this past year.

I started blogging on 11/05/2016 with the spotting of a Wambenger (otherwise known as a Brush-tailed phascogale) in the Perth hills.  This was a carnivorous marsupial I had always wanted to see and after following a few clues I finally saw a wild one.

20160511-102A4175-resize

Wambenger @ Perth Hills

Since then, I have written 32 blogs covering all sorts of different wildlife – mainly from around Perth, but also from Sydney and down south in the Ferguson Valley and Bremer Bay.

20160710-102A4379-resize

Swamp Wallaby @ Warriewood Wetlands, Sydney

Some of the stand outs would have to be seeing Orca (Killer whales) on a pelagic bird watching trip.

20160821-102A4927

Orca Male @ off Rottnest

Finding strange looking turtle frogs!

resize-5978

Turtle frog @ Bold Park

And perhaps the best of all was a trip to Dryandra about 2 hours out of Perth where we saw Woylie and also Chuditch (Western quoll) which I have always wanted to see.

Chuditch @ Dryandra

This next year I have a few target species:

  • Numbat – I haven’t seen a wild one before and will require time at Perup, Boyagin and/or Dryandra during the day.
  • Red-tailed phascogale – I have seen twice before but never managed to get a photo
  • Mardo (yellow-footed antechinus) – it is a small carnivorous mouse-sized marsupial
  • Rakali (water rat) – it is a large native rodent found around Perth but they are pretty cryptic – I have tried a couple of times this year with no luck.
  • Tammar wallaby – I need to try and get over to Garden island where there is a good population.

I have also signed up for a bio blitz in Woodanilling (few hours south-east of Perth) later this year in September.  If you have not heard of a bio blitz before it aims to get a group together for a short period to record as many observations as possible.

I look forward to this next year of blogging and sharing more wildlife experiences with you.   I also need to keep working on the information side of the site – where I have been documenting how to find wildlife around Perth.  It’s a work in progress.

Huge thanks go to my lovely wife who minds the fort when I am out & about and also edits my writing! Thanks also to my enthusiastic 3 year old son Liam who is very keen to come out with me at night, but he doesn’t stay up late enough quite yet, however he does join me during the day.  And also my beautiful 7 month old daughter Sienna – she joins us bush walking and is not afraid of a snake!

And to my friends and family who join me on my adventures and also encourage me via chats, emails and blog comments.

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!