Possum Magic

Last weekend I swung into the city to pick up Nik Haass and his lovely wife Raja before meeting up with Rohan Clarke for a night of looking for mammals in the Toolangi State Forest. As I have said previously it is not my favourite area of forest due to the pressures of excess logging but armed with spotlights, thermal cameras and a bat detector (and of course Rohan’s excellent local knowledge) we were pretty confident of seeing and hearing some cool stuff. This area of forest is largely unprotected and is still heavily logged despite being the western most habitat of the Critically Endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.

We started off in an area near Sylvia Creek Road and almost immediately Rohan found a Leadbeater’s Possum which was new for Nik and Raja. The views were fleeting as were a couple of others seen briefly soon after. They didn’t respond to pishing at all during the night perhpas due to the lack of moon and the threat of predators. There were a number of bats flitting around so I faffed around with the bat detector a bit quickly picking up a couple of Vespadelus species and Chocolate Wattled Bat.

Leadbeater's Possum - Toolangi State Forest
Leadbeater’s Possum – Toolangi State Forest

As usual when something cool turns up I was taking a nature break and after a quick jog up the road found that Rohan has found a lovely little tubby Eastern Pygmy Possum low down in road side foliage. Despite missing a good chunk of its tail this animal was in good condition with its little fat rolls seen well. It gave walk away views and we picked it up again on the walk back down the road which showed the thermal camera was not missing much.

Eastern Pygmy-possum
Eastern Pygmy-possum
Eastern Pygmy-possum
Eastern Pygmy-possum

From here we moved on trying a number of spots picking up mere glimpses of Leadbeater’s Possum in the thermal camera as well as plenty of Bobuck and a couple of Greater Glider. I wandered off with the bat detector and picked up an Eastern Falsistrellus doing loops which is an impressively large microbat of the wet forests of SE Australia. It would be new for Nik and Raja so we drove down to the spot and sat and waited and sure enough it was soon picked up on the detector and then spotlit giving decent views. We also detected a Long-eared Bat sp which looped around before ducking into foliage and was lost. Disappointingly we heard no Sooty Owls for the night but there were plenty of Boobooks and the odd Tawny and Owlet-nightjar calling as well as a couple of late night cuckoos.

Eastern Falsistrellus - showing its distinctive frequency around 35 kHz
Eastern Falsistrellus – showing its distinctive frequency around 35 kHz

About now the batteries in the hand held thermal camera were running low so Rohan mounted the car unit and we went for a drive picking up plenty of Bobucks and the odd ringtail and roosting bird. Eventually late in the evening we disturbed a wombat off the road which seemed to flush a small mammal upwards which glowed in the thermal camera. A bit of stumbling round and it was found to be a Feather-tailed Glider which decided freezing was its best defence and allowed a few photos of its feet and tail but not much else. It eventually decided it was time to flee and we got fantastic views of it moving adeptly through the thick lower story until we lost it. Analysis of the photos later appear to confirm that it is a Narrow-toed Feather-tailed Glider but would welcome comment on the pics below.

Narrow-toed? Feather-tailed Glider
Narrow-toed? Feather-tailed Glider
Narrow-toed? Feather-tailed Glider
Narrow-toed? Feather-tailed Glider
Toes
Toes
Tail tip
Tail tip
Toes
Toes

To wrap things up nicely we heard Yellow-bellied Gliders on the way out and while we stopped and looked for them and heard their gurgling call a number of times we couldn’t get an eye on them. All in all an excellent night with some 8 species of glider and possum seen between the party. It is such a shame that the remnants of this forest are not better protected and it seems a shame that logging seems to continue at a pace before its seemingly inevitable cessation in the Central Highlands around Melbourne – #GFNP

All in all an excellent night!

3 comments

  1. This was great to read and glad to hear there was so much diversity. Our landcare group in Kinglake has purchased a anabat bat detector which we used on a night walk recently in glenburn. We detected a couple of different bats but having trouble identifying what they were. We need some training in using the device. Would you be interested in giving some of our members a few tips or do you know someone who could?

    1. Hi Chris – I would be happy to come and have a chat but am not really an expert at all. I am completely self taught and there seems to be a fair bit of voodoo magic around bat calls. I do know the local species reasonably well so can at least generally have a stab. email me on tbawden @ live.com.au if you want to have a chat. Cheers, tim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *