A surprise bat

http://mgrboston.com/?grp=General Interest Last week I met up with mates Geoff Jones of Barra Imaging and Dave Stowe http://www.davidstowe.com.au/ for a quick jaunt up to Powelltown to look for Leadbeater’s Possum and any other Central Highlands targets we could find. Unfortunately it was a school night so I was late out of the city and we did not arrive up in possum country until about 8pm. At the second stop we had a very curious Sooty Owl which trilled continually as we tried to get some clear photos of it but it remained frustratingly high and in the foliage – this was a new Aussie bird for Geoff! Of note were several species of micro bat flying around which were considerably more in evidence than other recent visits – it must be getting warmer. At one stage the Sooty Owl moved to a new tree and a small mammal scampered down the trunk and launched into the air spiraling down – a Feather-tailed Glider! Too far away to see any details but will be back to see if there is a colony in the area.

where to buy diflucan pills A bit further up the road we stopped with the wind starting to rise and I almost immediately got onto a nice Leadbeater’s Possum which gave some good looks to Geoff and myself but unfortunately Dave missed it. We poked around here a bit and did not turn up another although did add Ringtail Possum to the evening list. Further along Dave saw what was probably a Leadbeaters Possum at a known site but unfortunately we could not get enough to confirm. A few Bobucks were in evidence but the wind was now getting quite high so we decided that we were flogging a dead horse so headed back down the mountain. We were beetling down the mountain when at one stage I was watching a micro bat flitting around in front of the car when it suddenly veered around and got caught on the aerial of the car. I shouted to stop and we bailed out to watch the death throws of the poor little animal. At the same time a Tyto owl screamed nearby which sounded very like Masked owl. There was a sequence reminiscent of Benny Hill as I tried to collect the now dead bat, photograph it, call in the owl and all the time the wind getting stronger and stronger. In the end we left the owl in the field and headed home but I will be back soon. Later at home I examined and keyed out the poor bat – forearm length and penis shape as well as pelage and face shape indicated this was a Large Forest bat – Vespadelus darlingtoni – a bat I have probably seen thousands of times as it is common in these forests but the first time I have positively identified. All in all a brief but pretty good night – still need to get Dave a Leadbeater’s on the next visit and I did manage to get a surprise bat for the year list.

Large Forest bat

Large Forest bat

Some Powerful Owl fun

With the forecast looking fantastic on Sunday night I finished up some family commitments and headed out to Bunyip State Park to look for some owl action. I arrived out there about 7:30 pm to still conditions and crystal clear skies. Jupiter was close to the moon which was half full and providing plenty of ambient light for moving around. Basic plan for the evening was to visit 4 sites in the park – two well known and two new sites – twice each to chase owls which should be quite vocal right now. I started at a nice known spot of mine where recently I have had Sooty and Powerful owl as well as the three regular gliders but all I had was silence. Despite a fair bit of poking around I could not even raise a ringtail. I moved on to another known spot where I had previously seen Masked Owl and sure enough after about 10 minutes I had strong call response several times but could not move the bird from its location in the forest across the valley.

Yellow-bellied Glider came in to greet the Powerful Owl

Yellow-bellied Glider came in to greet the Powerful Owl

I drove around a bit with only the occasional Greater Glider spotlit and the odd boobook calling for company plus numerous Geocrinia victoriana until I eventually had a Sooty Owl fly across the road in front of the car which is the first time this has happened for me. I stopped and could hear the Sooty moving away calling as it went before settling several hundred meters away. I tried to call it back but it would not come any closer. The reason for this was soon apparent as a pair of Powerful Owls started calling with the deep male in response to the higher pitched female. I was alerted to the Powerful Owl sitting above me by a number of Yellow-bellied Gliders calling raucously with one even gliding into the tree beside the owl and charging up the trunk. I had read about this behaviour from Yellow-bellied Gliders and while I had heard and seen them respond to Sooty Owl calls this is the first time I had witnessed the mobbing behaviour. Despite this the Powerful Owl sat completely unperturbed looking down at me allowing me to take a few happy snaps. By now a second Sooty Owl had joined the first as they sat screaming with indignation the gully over which the owl ignored. After 10 minutes the owl had not moved so I left it to its own devices – for all I know it is sitting there still. A couple more Greater Gliders and a Frogmouth on the way out rounded it off. All in all a pretty good night and home in bed just after 11 which is not bad for a school night!

Powerful Owl - Bunyip State Park

Powerful Owl – Bunyip State Park

Powerful Owl - Bunyip State Park

Powerful Owl – Bunyip State Park

If only….

After having such good fortune on most of my spotlighting trips this year I was about due for a quiet one. I headed out to Bunyip late afternoon for a bit of pre-spotlighting exploring of a new area which had no tracks marked on the map. After a bit of poking around I was able to find a management track into the area I was interested in but it was very quiet with only a few birds seen and nothing of particular interest. Still it was a worthwhile exercise with large areas of Banksia spinulosa about to come into flower which will be worth checking shortly. Headed into Gembrook for dinner and met up with my two companions for the evening Dean and Chris. Chris is a bit of a veteran of my spotlighting nights but this was the first time I had managed to drag Dean out. A few White-throated Needletails hawked above Gembrook before dusk.

We headed to the Helipad arriving right on dusk but no nightjars were evident although a Sooty did call from Ash Landing Road. Another reliable nightjar spot again drew a blank – perhaps they are starting to head North as they were very much in evidence last week. My main target for the night was to try and photograph the Masked Owl I had seen last week so we headed over to the area. We had some distant call response but no action so after half an hour moved on to another spot. Many of the eucalypts were flowering so there were large numbers of Grey-headed Flying-foxes around which I don’t recall seeing in such numbers in Bunyip State Park before. A Greater Glider also fed on the blossum and Sugar Gliders yapped from various places. Many, many microbats flitted around which remain frustratingly unidentified.

We headed to Mortimer’s Picnic Ground where the well known juvenile Sooty Owl continued to show well while calling incessantly although staying too far away for photos. Mum (or Dad) called from nearby but did not show so we headed back to the original site. After poking around there for half an hour with a gliding Sugar Glider the highlight we were about to get in the car when a Sooty Owl called from directly above the car. This bird looked to be an adult male on size but had a bit of a teenagers voice as its bomb calls cracked and warbled. Still it gave great views and photo opportunities, particularly for Dean with his excellent camera setup. While we were admiring and photographing this owl, the Masked Owl started calling strongly from down the road so I jumped off to chase it. Unfortunately it shut up after a couple of minutes and did not call again while we were there which was somewhat disappointing. Still the Sooty Owl decided to follow us down the road, trilling as it went giving us more photo opportunities. In the end we left it there and for all we know it is calling still.

All in all a good but not great night with walk away views of the Sooty Owl and 12 identified mammal species – will be back out again soon.

EBIRD LIST

Sooty Owl - Bunyip State Park

Sooty Owl – Bunyip State Park

If only the flash had fired :(

If only the flash had fired 🙁

A bit of Bunyip action

It is no secret that Bunyip State Park is my favourite place to go birding and I had been meaning to take Lucas camping here for ages. So when a spare Saturday night came up and with Simone safely out for the night we took off for a spot of camping. After a bit of exploring we chose a campsite at the Nash Creek campground which we had largely to ourselves. There were some nice birds around with Red-browed Treecreeper, Rufous Fantail and Rose Robin being camp ground birds. Lucas had a ball and was great to see him so excited exploring the area and doing his own brand of nature watching. He is fascinated by the natural world around him as are most children and I hope he never loses it.

Lucas and his cave

Lucas and his cave

On dusk we did some spotlighting and Lucas was very pleased to see his first Greater Gliders in the tree above the tent as well as many Swamp Wallabies coming out to feed on the grass. After Lucas went to bed we were visited by a Long-nosed Bandicoot briefly and there were also Sugar and Yellow-bellied Gliders around the campground. Considering I didn’t leave the immediate area of the tent I ended up with a pretty decent mammal list. The highlight however was a lovely female Sooty Owl which came in and hung out above the tent for most of the night. It went through the full repertoire of calls including constant trilling and many bomb calls – a very cool experience with my favourite bird. Judging on size I believe it was an adult female and was a new territory for me. In the morning we packed up and pottered around in the park before heading home with Lucas already planning his next camping trip.

Greater Glider - Bunyip State Park

Greater Glider – Bunyip State Park

Sooty Owl - Bunyip State Park

Sooty Owl – Bunyip State Park

As always it wasn’t too long before I was heading out to Bunyip again, this time last weekend with mate Paul Brooks from Tasmania. Paul has the privilege of being one of the few people I had failed to show a Sooty Owl to in a previous visit, even after a long night in the forest, so we were keen to fix that. We arrived at Mortimer’s Picnic Ground only to find the place packed for a “bush doof” dance party! Even Sooty Owls with their electronic trills could not compete with this so we moved on after a quick poke around. We drove across the park from this location and found Sugar and Yellow-bellied Gliders at the first location. A second stop and we finally had a Sooty Owl which snuck in quietly but was betrayed by the click of its talons on a branch. Paul got excellent looks at his first Sooty Owl which gave a nice bomb call as it moved off. On size I would have said this was a male bird and possibly the mate of the bird I had seen the previous weekend.

Sooty Owl peers down rather aloof

Sooty Owl peers down rather aloof

With the night now officially a success we moved on to the Helipad which was very quiet with no sign or sound of Nightjars. Further along the road we stopped again and heard two White-throated Nightjars before being interrupted by a couple of 4wd’s of your standard breed Bunyip bogan who were friendly enough until I asked them if they were after deer which made them shut right up. Pity as I would have told them where to go to find them! After they moved on we were lucky enough to get great views of the Nightjar in flight and perched high on a dead branch – another lifer for Paul!

Moving on we went to a new location that I thought looked good for Masked Owl – sure enough within minutes Paul noticed a bird fly in but when we searched it flew off but binocular views in the moonight and head torch revealed an excellent Masked Owl!! Great success! We hung around the area a while until a Masked Owl (presumably the same bird) started screaming incessantly but unfortunately as we walked up to try and get a photo a car went past and the bird shut up never to call again. Eventually a Sooty came in to see what all the racket was giving us our second bird of the night. I will certainly be heading back out soon to scope out this new location during daylight to look for likely roost places as well as trying to get that elusive photo.

Sooty Owl came in to see what all the racket was about

Sooty Owl came in to see what all the racket was about

A last stop on the way out turned up good views of a Yellow-bellied Glider peering down at us from above before we finally decided to call it a night. As we travelled south out of the park I thought I saw eyeshine so slammed on the brakes and jumped out but it was only a can. I noticed plenty of flowering banksia around so jokingly said I would look for Eastern Pygmy Possum. Within a couple of minutes I noticed some eyeshine that I thought looked like a frog but on closer examination it was indeed an Eastern Pygmy Possum peering at me through the grass!! Excitedly summoning Paul to keep a light on it, I was able to snap some very bad pictures. As I contemplated trying to catch it, it slipped away quietly into the night. At the start of this year I had never seen a Pygmy Possum of any description and now less than two months into the year I have three species under the belt! Western and Long-tailed look out, here I come! As we cruised home we decided it had been an acceptable night…..

It is an Eastern Pygmy Possum, honest!!

It is an Eastern Pygmy Possum, honest!!

As always I can highly recommend the downloadable map from the Parks Website and the use of the Avenza PDF Maps application – http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/bunyip-state-park