What are we monitoring for?

Tonight’s the Friends of Tarra Bulga National Park committee had one of their regular meetings. It is always interesting to make the evening trip up to Balook, as you are almost guaranteed to see an interesting array of wildlife along the way. Tonight was no exception on the way up in the last hour of daylight there were plenty of wallabies darting out in front of the car and a couple of lyrebirds  doing their last rounds of the day.

Long- nosed Bandicoot - Perameles nasuta
Long- nosed Bandicoot – Perameles nasuta

After the meeting it was now a couple of hours since dusk, back in the car and around the first few bends we catch some eye shine and a shape at the side of the road, slowing down it becomes clear that it is a fox with something in its mouth. With light from the headlights and the full moon, I can see a short tail and on the other side of the foxes snout a long pointy nose, unmistakably a bandicoot, bit sad that my first live sighting of a bandicoot at Tarra Bulga had to be this way. The full moon seems to get the fauna out and about and a little further on we stop the car when we spot a brush-tailed possum on the roadside. With the car stationary it strides across, with a tiny offspring hanging tenaciously on to its mother’s back. Next sighting is a couple of rabbits, which surely would have been our preferred option for the fox to be dining on.

Before the friends started monitoring with remote cameras, there had been no official records of bandicoots in the park for at least a decade (wildlife surveys can be an expensive business). What impacts do fox numbers have on bandicoot or lyrebird populations or even rabbits? How common are other feral animals in the park and what impact could they be having e.g. cats? What else is out there that we don’t know about (Could there be any Tiger Quoll?  We could guess but without some means of surveying we wouldn’t really know. The Friends of Tarra Bulga now have a network of remote cameras across the park, we aim to use them to the best of our ability to get a much greater understanding of what is happening out there with all them critters.

Wallaby Pouch Action

This vision of a mother Swamp Wallaby (Wallaby bicolor) and her young one was snapped at one of our monitoring sites in the Tarra Valley section of the park. The camera was ideally located to catch the action.

Remote Camera and the Fallen Tree

When we checked one of the cameras after some of the recent windy weather, we arrived at the site to find it had had a close call with the base of a fallen tree landing only inches in front of our precious camera.

Figuring the the tree would be completely blocking the line of sight for the camera it was thought that there was no point leaving it in its current position. So the camera was relocated. 

Later while checking the results computer we found there had been some interesting activity at the site with passing Echidna’s and Bandicoots and a Male Lyrebird strutting around and calling.

Lyrebird
Nice shots of this male Lyrebird before the tree fell over and blocked the view.

After the tree fell we were not expecting much but the disturbance and obviously caused interest in feeding opportunities for some fauna. Antechinus and Eastern Whip Birds featured in a number of shots foraging in the rotten wood at the base of the fallen tree. As the tree was very close to the camera the shots are a little out of focus but they do give us a good look at the habits of species we would not have seen without the presence of the camera.

Antechinus Close Up
Antechinus Close Up foraging on newly fallen tree base.
Eastern Whip Bird - Psophodes olivaceus
This Eastern Whip Bird (Psophodes olivaceus) was very interested in the base of this newly fallen tree, it seemed to be having a feast.

Tarra Valley – Remote Camera Site

We recently moved one of our cameras down to a site in the Tarra Valley section of the park, to get a better idea of what wildlife is hanging around there. After the camera was checked the first time we had plenty of shots of Swamp Wallabies but nothing else apart from foxes. The camera was then moved a few metres to a new position where it could be set closer to the ground and the difference in the number of species photographed was quite remarkable. There are some great Long-nosed Bandicoot photos along with Antechinus and Rattus pictures, an Echidna and Possums (Not certain whether they are the Common Brush Tailed Possum of the Mountain Brush Tail (Bobuck) or whether we have both, The Bobuck’s have smaller more rounded ears.

Unfortunately there are still plenty of introduced predators at this site with Foxes and Feral Cats present. We have been recording quite a few cats with our monitoring lately.

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Agile Antechinus

This little critter nearly went by unnoticed until we went back through some remote picks and spotted it here. It is an Agile Antechinus – Antechinus agilis. They mainly feed on invertebrates such as spiders and beetles. Like all antechinuses, the Agile Antechinus has a short and violent breeding season, after which the males all die.

Agile Antechinus - Antechinus agilis
You might have to look closely to find this little Antechinus

Wombats in Tarra Bulga

A very common site in the Strzelecki Ranges, the Common Wombat – (Vombatus ursinus) is mostly nocturnal and shelters in large burrows. The single young leave the pouch around 6-9 months of age and follow the mother on foot until they are fully weaned at about 20 months old. They only produce one young every 2 years. They feed on grasses, sedges and tubers. Be on the look out for them on the roads at night, They have absolutely no road sense and are likely to run straight in front of your vehicle if startled.

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