Feral Cat with a Sugar Glider

Remote Camera Results Updated to include 2015

Overall total number of species sightings – all cameras

2012 2013 2014 2015
Antechinus 79 106 86 59
Bassian Thrush 198 198 934 719
Brown Gerygone 0 0 1 2
Brown Thornbill 0 3 0 5
Brush Bronzewing 3 21 590 1356
Common Blackbird 27 16 183 145
Common Bronzewing 0 1 5 0
Common Brushtail Possum 75 13 0 5
Crimson Rosella 7 8 284 5
Cuckoo Fantailed 0 0 0 2
Dog 0 1 1 0
Eastern Whipbird 31 20 143 137
Eastern Yellow Robin 3 4 11 12
Echidna 24 24 63 107
Fantail, Grey 0 3 0 0
Fantail, Rufous 3 3 7 0
Feral Cat 24 49 95 99
Fox 191 323 336 140
Grey Currawong 7 16 23 7
Grey Shrike-Thrush 3 3 8 0
Human 0 0 1 0
Koala 3 14 118 75
Kookaburra 0 9 4 17
Large Billed Scrubwren 0 0 0 2
Long Nosed Bandicoot 287 119 270 652
Lyrebird 486 902 1809 973
Magpie 3 0 0 0
Mountain Brushtail Possum 181 235 243 289
Olive Whistler 7 15 7 10
Pied Currawong 3 6 10 8
Pilotbird 21 50 136 217
Rabbit 191 58 34 90
Rattus Species 120 213 222 189
Raven Species 0 1 4 0
Ring-tailed Possum 7 85 29 67
Satin Bowerbird 21 8 3 5
Sugar Glider 0 4 1 0
Superb Fairy-wren 3 5 66 7
Swamp Wallaby 749 1382 1112 677
Tawny Frogmouth 0 0 3 0
Wedge-tailed Eagle 3 0 0 0
White-browed Scrubwren 89 71 264 130
White Throated Tree-creeper 0 0 4 3
Wombat 202 234 176 130

Without any advanced statistical scrutiny strong trends include:Our remote camera monitoring has now reached four solid years of records. Although not a flawless scientifically planned project there are still be some interesting developments. The table above shows the total sightings of each species combined across all of the camera sites. There are many variables in these results, the main one being that cameras have been moved around different habitats at different times, so have not constantly been in the one place.

  • A massive rise in the number of Brush Bronzewings every year.
  • A rise in the number of other ground dwelling bird species including Bassian Thrushes, Pilotbirds, Eastern Whipbirds and Common Blackbirds.
  • An increase in the number of Long-nosed Bandicoots (although this may be explained by moving cameras to areas where habitat is more suitable).
  • Crimson Rosellas had a huge spike in numbers in 2014 (maybe because there was a lot of wattle seed on the ground?)
  • An upward trend in Echidna and Feral Cat numbers.
  • A drop in Fox numbers in 2015.
  • 2014 had double the amount of Lyrebird sightings than other years.

Several cameras have been left in the same spot for several years and it is possible to compare the results of these sites with the overall figures.

Site: Tarra Bulga – North East

Habitat: Mountain Ash forest with an open understorey consisting of scattered shrubs, ferns and grasses:

Species 2013 2014 2015
Antechinus 0 23 3
Bassian Thrush 36 298 209
Brown Gerygone 0 1 0
Brush Bronzewing 1 121 102
Common Blackbird 5 103 41
Common Bronzewing 1 0 0
Eastern Whipbird 4 79 98
Eastern Yellow Robin 0 1 2
Echidna 5 8 11
Fantail, Rufous 1 0 0
Feral Cat 3 6 16
Fox 40 68 17
Grey Currawong 1 0 0
Grey Shrike-Thrush 1 1 0
Koala 11 0 2
Long Nosed Bandicoot 38 13 8
Lyrebird 106 145 159
Mountain Brushtail Possum 8 10 16
Pied Currawong 2 0 0
Pilotbird 1 23 11
Rabbit 35 11 14
Rattus Species 10 44 65
Ring-tailed Possum 4 0 2
Satin Bowerbird 2 1 0
Swamp Wallaby 55 30 17
White Throated Tree-creeper 0 0 2
White-browed Scrubwren 3 39 24
Wombat 27 53 29

 

Site: West of Balook

Habitat – Forest with an open understorey, canopy consists of mature Silver Wattle.

Species 2013 2014 2015
Bassian Thrush 0 7 26
Brown Thornbill 0 0 1
Brush Bronzewing 10 45 272
Common Blackbird 6 5 1
Common Bronzewing 0 4 0
Crimson Rosella 0 122 3
Eastern Whipbird 1 0 6
Eastern Yellow Robin 0 1 2
Echidna 3 10 2
Fantail, Rufous 0 1 0
Feral Cat 27 22 17
Fox 64 111 53
Grey Currawong 3 5 1
Koala 0 79 30
Kookaburra 10 3 9
Long Nosed Bandicoot 17 0 3
Lyrebird 237 510 116
Mountain Brushtail Possum 46 11 7
Olive Whistler 0 0 1
Pied Currawong 1 4 3
Pilotbird 0 5 7
Rabbit 6 0 2
Raven Species 1 1 0
Rattus Species 0 0 1
Satin Bowerbird 0 0 2
Sugar Glider 0 1 0
Superb Fairy-wren 0 1 0
Swamp Wallaby 955 374 179
Tawny Frogmouth 0 2 0
White Throated Tree-creeper 0 1 0
White-browed Scrubwren 3 18 3
Wombat 54 16 20

Comments: The open nature of this site means it is less suited to small mammals. Popular site for Swamp Wallabies to congregate. Openness also suits many ground feeding birds scratching around or eating fallen seeds. Foxes and cats often pass through. Has been a Koala habitually passing the camera every few days between its favourite trees.

 

Site: Balook Area

Habitat: Open forest with regenerating Mountain Ash, Ferny understorey with some thick scrubby patches near by.

 

Species 2013 2014 2015
Antechinus 0 5 9
Bassian Thrush 9 276 222
Brush Bronzewing 0 101 303
Common Blackbird 0 38 65
Cuckoo Fantailed 0 0 1
Crimson Rosella 0 71 0
Dog 0 1 0
Eastern Whipbird 0 19 13
Eastern Yellow Robin 0 4 3
Echidna 4 1 2
Feral Cat 4 29 17
Fox 136 38 5
Grey Currawong 0 3 0
Grey Shrike-Thrush 0 1 0
Koala 0 3 2
Long Nosed Bandicoot 6 149 168
Lyrebird 123 145 45
Mountain Brushtail Possum 95 73 79
Olive Whistler 0 4 4
Pied Currawong 0 0 2
Pilotbird 2 51 117
Rabbit 17 14 45
Rattus Species 11 79 23
Ring-tailed Possum 19 0 1
Satin Bowerbird 6 0 1
Superb Fairy-wren 0 1 4
Swamp Wallaby 136 184 151
White-browed Scrubwren 0 19 21
Wombat 108 25 14

Comment: Good site for a diversity of species, some scrubby ground-cover in the area makes it a good spot for Bandicoots, with a high proportion of our Bandicoots sightings recorded here. Also good for introduced Common Blackbirds and Rabbits that like to hide in cover. Like other sites had a big spike in Crimson Rosella numbers in 2014. Interestingly large drop in Fox numbers.

When Koalas are on to a good thing.

Amazing how much of a routine Koalas get into. At a camera site we had been monitoring for over 12 months, we had never come across a Koala. In fact you wouldn’t really have expected one because it is in a regrowth area of Silver Wattle, with the nearest suitable Eucalypts quite a distance away. All of a sudden our camera location has become a point on a local Koalas new favourite path. Since late May it has been crossing by our camera on average every couple of days, all up a total of 24 times (and still counting).

It is interesting to click on and check out this photo gallery to see just how regular of a routine it has.

Camera Site Greatly Exceeds Expectations

In February we placed a camera in a new site along the Grand Ridge Rd, in vegetation that was not typical old growth Mountain Ash forest, but rather sad looking regrowth scrub. As a result we didn’t have high expectations as to what fauna we’d find in this habitat. Surprisingly though it’s a very popular spot, especially with ground dwelling birds (must be lots of food) and we obtained some fantastic images. All up the camera was triggered on 165 separate occasions, see the table below for more details)

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Species Sightings  

Species

Sightings
Brush Bronzewing 36   Fox 3
Superb Lyrebird 22   Swamp Wallaby 2
White-browed Scrubwren 20   Echidna 2
Bassian Thrush 16   Koala 2
Pilotbird 13   Common Blackbird 2
Eastern Whipbird 7   Brushtail Possum 1
Superb Fairy-wren 7   Rufous Fantail 1
Wombat 4    
  • In addition there were 26 birds that triggered the camera not able to be identified from the image quality to species level.
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Koala Day Report

The Friends of Tarra Bulga hosted a very interesting and enjoyable day on Saturday when we welcomed a guest Dr. Kath Handasyde, who is a Senior Lecturer at Melbourne University and specialises in wildlife ecology, management and diseases.  Starting with a yummy BBQ lunch we then proceeded into the visitors centre where Kath gave a fantastic insight into the management of Koala populations in South Eastern Australia.

Talk in the visitors centre
Talk in the visitors centre

The major issues facing Victorian Koalas is overpopulation, this problem occurs mainly on island locations or in mainland areas where there were trans-locations or re-introductions into areas with isolated or fragmented habitat. In extreme cases in these locations habitat trees are being completely denuded with catastrophic consequences for not only the Koalas but  for the whole ecology of these places. Kath outlined the success researchers have had in developing slow release hormonal implants that have been a successful contraceptive for females; it seems like where they have been applied to a sufficient percentage of the population that there has been some success in maintaining more sustainable Koala populations. Management of these crowded populations however is a very intensive process and while the contraceptive implants, make the process more efficient, it is a struggle to have enough management resources to keep up with the areas in crisis (e.g. Cape Otway).

Koala mother in a defoliated tree in at Cape Otway
Koala mother in a defoliated tree in at Cape Otway

It seems locally that we are  lucky that our local Koala populations are not having over-population issues. We have a relatively low density of Koalas, thought to be because of the higher altitudes and cooler temperatures making it harder for Koalas (who can’t shelter in tree hollows like many other species) to consume enough energy to meet their needs. This probably means the local ones have a shorter life-span (a limiting factor on a Koala’s life is their teeth, when they have worn out they can no longer process enough food).

The quality of the local food is also thought to be a factor that controls the population. Manna Gums are not widespread and they rely mainly locally on species such as Mountain Grey Gum which possibly don’t have the same nutritional value.  In the local region there are also fairly good linkages between habitat areas, meaning that populations can disperse successfully if crowding becomes an issue in one site. In some areas habitat linkages are mainly along roadside vegetation, meaning road deaths are common. The local population is also though to have greater genetic diversity than the rest of the state, so this should mean the population has greater resilience, although the animals in the rest of the state are still generally very hardy robust animals. Our monitoring program will also help to keep tabs on any changes in the local Koala population levels.

Local Koala Food Tree - Mountain Grey Gum
Local Koala Food Tree – Mountain Grey Gum

After the talks some of us headed out in convoy to the Tarra Falls car park and then did a loop walk starting by going up Diaper TK.  At the start of the walk we unfortunately copped an instant onslaught of  Leeches, but that was offset by the scenery and the two species of Bird Orchid in flower in the middle of the track. Kath used her all her spotting senses to discover some Koala droppings (Scats), but we did not get a live sighting today; not that surprising given that spotting is quite difficult given the tall towering trees and healthy canopy that make up the local habitat as well as the fact that we don’t have a high population density. All in all it was a great day, and a big thanks has to go out to Kath who made the big effort to come down here and share her extensive knowledge.

Common Bird Orchid - Chiloglottis valida
Common Bird Orchid – Chiloglottis valida

The Tarra Valley 88 Years Ago

Technology today has made it super-easy to dig up fascinating old newspaper articles like this one below from the Argus in 1925.  We would have to think that the author would be fairly astounded if they could step forward in time and visit the Tarra-Bulga today. What will it be like 88 years from now?? 

THE TARRA VALLEY.

When in 1840 Strzelecki led an expedition from New South Wales over Mount Kosciusko and through Gippsland to Corinella, on Westernport Bay one of the party was an Australian aborigine named Charley Tarra. The choice of this native was fortunate for in the latter part of the journey when food supplies were exhausted it was Charley Tarra’s prowess as a hunter that saved the party from starvation.

To such straits were they reduced to in the last 50 miles – and so wild and rough was the country that it took them 22 days to hew their way through the bush – that they lived almost wholly on the flesh of Koalas or native bears. A few months later when a party from Melbourne chartered a vessel  to carry them to the newly discovered province, they took with them Charley Tarra, and when they, or rather some of them were cutting their through the tangled way undergrowth back towards Westernport Tarra’s gun frequently provided the hungry travelers with bear flesh. Which if not tasty, at any rate had food value, It was therefore fitting that Tarra’s name should be preserved in the nomenclature of the streams of Gippsland and, on a river rising in the hills 10 0r 12 miles from where the town of Yarram has since been built, and flowing through a wilderness of bush and fern trees, was bestowed the name of Tarra. It is not an imposing stream, and along most of its course the beautiful surroundings have vanished.

Making a Hill Road (Source: Monash University Centre for Gippsland Studies)
Making a Hill Road (Source: Monash University Centre for Gippsland Studies)

As one wanders in South Gippsland with its hundreds of bare hills or if not bare then covered only with dead eucalypts, or through the lower lands that have nearly all been devastated by fire, it is difficult to picture what this great territory was like when it was first explored, or even to visualise it as it was half a century ago. But a page or two of “the universal and public manuscript” that at one time was expanded to the eye of all can still be seen in the upper part of the valley through which the Tarra River flows. They are not unsullied pages, for every here and there one comes on patches of dead trees looking like phantoms of the surrounding living giants, with their marble like boles. On the hills and in the valleys, the fern trees rise above a tangled wilderness of blanket-wood, hazel, and other scrubs peculiar to the virgin mountain forests of Victoria. Far down in the main valley and in the trackless ways of the Tarra’s gully tributaries are bowers of myrtles of various sizes and conditions, some lithe and fresh others old and hung with lichens. Along the road over the hill big hearted settlers, in spite of great difficulties and discouragement, have built homes and cultivated little clearings.

Hill farm in the Tarra Valley - (Source:  Monash Uni Gipps Studies)
Hill farm in the Tarra Valley – (Source: Monash Uni Gipps Studies)

In some cases, however, the odds have proved too tremendous, and scrub and bracken are almost hiding from view the abandoned homesteads. Near the top of the range where the Tarra River has its source is a timber mill, and though all the machinery is still there it seems a long while since the mill was in operation Scores of white logs mark an old timber trail now partly over grown with young scrub, and the bush is gradually creeping back around the mill and the timber-getters’ huts.

Car at Tarra Valley
Car at Tarra Valley – Source: Monash Gipps Studies.

Near its source the scenery of the Tarra River is not surpassed by the beauty of any other valley in the State, but it is not likely to attract tourists. For the greater part of the year the road through it is almost impossible for motors, and there is too much stale, flat, and unprofitable country to be gone through to make the trip suitable for a walking tour. The bit of wild bush that is left is but a scrap of a mighty forest that 50 years ago covered South Gippsland, and this probably must ere long be destroyed and the name of the Tarra Valley be recorded only in the catalogue of things that were and cannot be again.

The Road Through Tarra Valley (Source: State Library of Victoria)
The Road Through Tarra Valley (Source: State Library of Victoria)

 (Photographs were also sourced via Trove)

Koala on Candid Camera

Since our remote camera project began around two years ago, we had only once photographed a Koala. These figures have now been boosted by 800% with a camera in the north east of Tarra Bulga National Park capturing a Koala eight times all on separate days over a period of about 7 weeks.  Most sightings were in the early morning, but a few were in the evening.  Another case luck with the camera being at the right place at the right time to film the comings and goings of the locals.

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Strzelecki Koala

We have had what we hope is the first of many Koala’s detected by our remote cameras. This one was on the  move past our camera site in the Tarra Valley. Koala sightings seem to be reported more frequently in the park in recent years, but this is only anecdotal as no proper ongoing survey has ever taken place. Importantly the park is part of the habitat of the Strzelecki Koala population, which is significant because the local Koalas are thought to be the only population in the state that are not descended from a handful of trans-located  Koalas from French Island and hence are thought to be much healthier and genetically resilient.

Koala at Tarra Bulga
This Koala is the first one we have seen one via our Remote Camera monitoring program.

This Koala was in an area of the Park that has some very large Mountain Grey-gum trees, (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa) which researchers believe is one of the local Koalas’ favourite food sources. Although not their first choice Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans); which is the most common eucalypt within the park is thought to also be utilisted by Koalas as well as Messmate (Eucalyptus obliqua) which is also quite common. We would love to hear about any sightings in the park to add to our knowledge and to help contribute to regional efforts that are being made to get a better understanding about the distribution of the Strzelecki Koala and its health and well being.