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Examining the evidence for rare fauna.

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Oatley Park WildlifePrintable Version

Swamp Wallaby, Echidna and plenty of Possums! - click to enlarge

2007 has turned into a bumper year for wildlife photography at Oatley Park. I'll begin with the big news - the swamp wallaby I photographed in Oatley Park in 2006 has either decided to hang around for another year, or has invited a friend over to mind the shop.

This time however, my sighting was in broad daylight and I had no trouble getting in close for a photo of this gorgeous animal! Note its enormous ears and the way its shoulders seem pressed forwards. What distinguishes this from the red-necked wallaby (in particular) is the deep rufous colouration on the lower half of the body. The same colour can be seen at the base of this male's ears.

(This photo has been digitally enhanced to saturate colour, which better, but slightly unrealistically, shows the effect)

The Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park describes this species as "quite different to other wallabies in regard to reproductive, genetic, dental and behavioural characteristics."

Next, the echidna!

If September's swamp wallaby wasn't enough, I couldn't believe my luck when I stumbled across an echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) in late October. I had heard rescue stories of years before involving locals bringing an echidna from King Georges Road Beverly Hills (that's no mistake) to Oatley Park in a bid to rescue it.

What they didn't know was that that echidna had a puggle (baby) buried somewhere in a burrow in Beverly Hills and it kept having to waddle all the way back!

I have no way of knowing if the story is related, but in any case, here was an echidna in Oatley Park.

(I have intentionally cropped the photo to show only the texture of its spines) [2/3/08 edit: I'm showing a fuller picture now - this guy literally walked through the front gate at the same time as me. I was trialling my new spotlights for the first time, so as I walked from my car into the park I was checking equipment. Then I heard the scrape of claws on the tarmac next to me and I thought "fair dinkum - there's an animal right there!" I expected it to be a possum, shone my spotlight and saw this guy. By the time I got the camera ready, he was heading off to hide - as you can see, he's climbing a very short "wall" made from timber posts (just above a regular road-side gutter actually) - quite agile. This garden bed is part of the turning circle just inside the front gate, and easily recongised. I have been back a number of times since then and always checked his hiding spot here, but never saw him in that location again - therefore I'm sure it's fine to share the info. I was concerned initially because echidnas bury their young (called "puggles") so I didn't want it to be disturbed if that was the case. I've since learned that echidnas have a number of regular hiding places that they'll dig down into. Interestingly, my swamp wallaby photo made the local newspaper and a number of local residents contacted me to report both wallabies and echidnas in Oatley Park and surrounds.)]

The last pair of critters in the photo above are common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) - the bushy tail of the left possum is clearly seen draped over the branch that they're sharing. Their strangely coloured eyes are due to "eyeshine" - the reflection of my spotlight or camera flash.

Spotlighting is an excellent way to discover some animals at night. Be sure to hold the torch close to your face so any eyeshine reflects directly back to your own eyes. Spiders have incredible eyeshine - pan your torch over the ground in your backyard and you'll see tiny jewels all over the ground.

Ringtail Possums - click to enlarge

On a previous spotlighting trip, I managed to photograph this common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus). These possums are much smaller than the brushtails and their tails are much less bushy.

As can be seen here, their ears give the impression of a much wider face than the brushtails'.

Most ringtail possums have the white tip on the tail, but not all.

Tawny Frogmouth - click to enlarge

On the same night I came across this tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides). Actually, while I was photographing the ringtail, there was a considerable commotion in some bushes a short distance away. As I got closer I saw this beautiful bird all tangled in the vines which are strangling the shrub.

At first (in the dark) I thought it might be an owl. Thankfully it wasn't an owl because owls have incredibly powerful talons which could easily go deeply into a human arm; that would have made it somewhat more difficult to rescue.

Soon after taking the photograph I moved in to disentangle the bird, but as I approached it flapped so much as to free itself.

Tawny Frogmouth - click to enlarge

Once free it had a good look around from its vantage point. Tawny frogmouths are sometimes called "perch and pounce" predators. Just like kookaburras they will sit, almost motionless, in a tree branch watching for signs of food below - then they'll pounce down to catch their prey.

Have you seen anything?
I hope you've enjoyed this small selection of Oatley Park's less commonly seen wildlife. There are certainly plenty more animals to see. In the daytime the birdlife is the main feature and recent news reports indicate than an osprey - similar to a sea eagle - has taken up at least temporary residence at Oatley Park; surely a first for a long long time.

Remember to get out there and have a look around in your own backyard. You never know what you might find! (I live on a plain old suburban block - but I've still identified at least 5 species of lizard on it!)

Have you seen anything unique or unusual near Oatley? I'd love to hear about it!

A quick update - click to enlarge

Some readers have written to ask why the articles have slowed down a little here at Where Light Meets Dark.

In recent months I have teamed up with Debbie Hynes in Victoria to search for Tasmanian devils on the Australian mainland Follow the link for our project website which summarises the work of our field cameras, our research into historical evidence for devils on the mainland and also contains a comprehensive list of devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) media links.

In addition to this project, I have begun plans to search for The Eastern quoll on mainland Australia. This little critter looks something like a cross between a ringtail possum and a thylacine but with spots. It hasn't been seen on mainland Australia since 1963. However, several unconfirmed post-extinction sighting reports exist. Unfortunately, they are all most likely to be misidentifications of the spotted-tailed quoll - a very similar, but larger, relative.

Depending on various research applications I hope to employ a number of methods to search for Eastern quolls including:
* examining the sightings evidence,
* spotlighting,
* using hair tubes,
* using remote cameras, and
* trapping.

In light of all this offline work, Newswatch has died down, but I'm always looking for a volunteer!

(This Eastern quoll picture is copyright to Andrea Little - and is certainly not from Oatley Park!)

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