Last night I headed out to Toolangi State Forest with Rohan Clarke http://www.wildlifeimages.com.au/ for a night of spotlighting. Toolangi is not really a favourite site of mine due to the constant reminder of the destruction of clear fell logging with desolate coupes and immature regrowth through most of the area. Still it is the western most remaining bastion of the now critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum so it is these we targeted along with the more common forest inhabitants. The basic plan was a loop around through the forest looking for new locations and potentially following up some old ones.
The first few spots we tried were quiet with Bobuck, Greater and Sugar Gliders providing some interest. Rohan was using a thermal camera in the hope of picking up some interesting small mammals in the undergrowth while I used the more traditional head torch looking for eye shine higher up. A few small mammals and roosting birds were picked up with the camera which proves it can be a useful tool although I imagine you lose some of the experience of walking in the forest at night while staring at the screen. It was a seriously quiet night with not a single night bird heard or seen or Sugar Glider yap. More interestingly not a single frog was heard despite many heard on visits to other central highlands areas over the past couple of weeks. Less surprisingly microbats were not much in evidence with only a couple seen patrolling the forest roads.
We continued to try a number of new sites with no sign of Leadbeater’s Possum despite the habitat looking better although it was still not as prime looking as the areas around Poweltown. We did propose that potentially the less optimum habitat meant that the possums were in this area in lesser densities. The other theory was that they were less susceptible to our squeaking due to the time of year so went to check out a site where Rohan had previously found them. As soon as we left the car at this spot Rohan picked up one and then a second animal in quick succession – he is a jammy bastard like that! They were quite interested in us, jumping around and looking at us although not sitting close for good photos. We ended up finding 3 animals at this location and a separate animal perhaps 500 meters away which came in from a different direction. From here we tried some other prime looking areas without further success before calling it a night. All in all a successful evening for finding the 4 Leadbeater’s Possum but on the whole quite quiet for 6 hours of effort. With the recent upgrade (downgrade?) of Greater Glider to nationally vulnerable the good numbers in these forests could be important. Greater Gliders require large hollows for denning and breeding which are also important for other animals such as large forest owls so any moves to further protect the glider must also help these.
Unfortunately the possum’s did not sit for good pics but did manage a couple of ID shots below.
I have to say that I was less impressed by the forest in Toolangi than area’s around Powelltown where I have been concentrating in recent times but there is still some excellent areas of mature forest. It is clearly being logged hard and even areas of regrowth don’t seem to be as diverse in structure. There also seems to be less old stags left which are important den sites for Leadbeater’s Possum. There is still clearly an important population of these animals (and others) here though that needs to be protected and protected now. There is only one way we can save the Leadbeater’s Possum and that is through protection in a properly funded Great Forest Park. Do not let their habitat and our water catchments become like the logging coupe below – it is devastation in that pic but even those “habitat trees” remaining wont be alive once the coupe is burnt. #GFNP