Tutanning NR / Boyagin NR Sun 14th January.
Ex-tropical Joyce the second cyclone of the season was heading South after making landfall in the Pilbara, and a large amount of rain was in the post for the Wheatbelt Reserves. I wanted to head out to the reserves to see what frogs would be around during summer rains. In the event the rain didn’t arrive until the Monday and so what initially had been planned as a day trip and spotlight became a day trip only.
I drove to Tutanning via Brookton and Pingelly, and there was a freshly killed Brown Snake on the road between these two towns. Leaving Pingelly heading East a Wedge-tailed Eagle was soaring across the sky, the first of four raptors seen during the course of the day.
The plan for the day was to walk the area North of Tutanning Road with a view to seeing if the roads were drivable for a future spotlight. As I was driving West along Tutanning Road a Tammar Wallaby bounded across the road ahead, then just as I was approaching the intersection with Wambenger Rd a black monitor lizard darted across the road in front of the car, it was a near miss. I got out of the car but there was no sign of the lizard. I surmised it must have been a Black-tailed Tree Monitor (Varanus tristis) from the colouration.
I walked the boundary track to the junction of Rosella Rd then followed it around until it merged with Grasstree Rd, and then back along Tutanning Rd to the parked car. It was a very hot day and there was not much to be seen other than a large Western Grey Kangaroo, three Common Bronzewings and a very impressive Wedge-tailed Eagle nest. I was however, pleased to note that Rosella Rd was in fairly good condition and passes through excellent she-oak thickets with wandoo/powderbark stags.
I then drove Wambenger Rd around the Northern boundary disturbing a further three Western Greys. Shortly before I completed the circuit to Tutanning Rd I found a macabre scene with a Western Grey carcass impaled on the barbed wire fence. Death must have been a blessed relief after the pain and suffering this creature endured.
Before leaving the reserve, I drove to the junction of Bee-eater and Casuarina Rd and found the usual Tammar Wallabies in the gastrolobium thickets.
I returned to Perth via Boyagin NR but there was nothing doing on this hot and humid day so I was gladly returned to the air conditioning of civilisation, disappointed with the lack of rain.
Mount Caroline NR – Sat 20th Jan.
On moving to Perth in 2010 I researched the distribution of the Black-footed (Black-flanked) Rock Wallaby in the Wheatbelt, and always intended to drive out to the Central Wheatbelt to visit them. As with many things it never reached fruition, but now that I was writing this article on the Wheatbelt Reserves it seemed a good time to finally pay a visit.
Two of the sites where these Rock Wallabies are found are 3kms apart on the (sealed) Kellerberrin-Yoting Rd. They are Mt Stirling and Mt Caroline. Of the two Mt Caroline has the larger population of Rock Wallabies, and so it was to this destination Lorenz and I drove on what was a very hot Summer day.
From Perth we drove East to Mount Caroline, via York and Quairading, but returned via the Great Eastern Highway to reduce the chance of collision with wildlife after dark.
Driving North on Kellerberrin-Yoting Rd we passed Mt Stirling Picnic Site, 3kms further along we reached Gardner Rd. A further 3kms along this road we came to the signage for Mt Caroline and parked the car. It was 37C.
Mt Caroline is back from Gardner Rd, although there is a strip of vegetation to walk to the rock that passes between private property. It was walking along here that we disturbed a Barn Owl that was immediately harassed by birds driving it out of the area. Not a bad start to the day…. for us, not the owl!
Mt Caroline is a large granite outcrop and there were the associated Ornate Crevice Dragons scarpering over the surface of the rock with their characteristic head bobbing. We climbed the South face of the outcrop then as we reached the fractured boulders towards the top there were brief glimpses of the Rock Wallabies as they darted for cover.
We sat on a large rock and quietly waited but nothing reappeared, so I continued walking along the ridge at the top of the outcrop, disturbing a Wedge-tailed Eagle in the process, and it wasn’t long before I encountered more Rock Wallabies.
There was a glut of Wallabies around this area and provided I moved slowly and remained motionless at times I was able to get great views. I eventually sat on a large rock with the height advantage enabling more superlative views of these pretty Wallabies.
After a while I remembered Lorenz and made my way back to where I had last seen him. There was a fabulous double rainbow in the sky from the light rain that had earlier passed over.
Lorenz had a Rock Wallaby encounter of his own to report, because after I had moved off, a Rock Wallaby jumped up onto a rock giving Lorenz great views with which he was delighted!
Lorenz wanted to see more Wallabies so we returned to the rock I had previously sat on and waited quietly. The sun was starting to set casting an orange light over us. It wasn’t long before more Rock Wallabies appeared with five seen at this time.
We were both surprised when we saw an Echidna pop its head out from one of the crevices, not a mammal either of us were expecting to see!
It was time to go with a 2hr 40min drive back to Perth on the cards, so we descended the outcrop disturbing more Ornate Crevice Dragons basking in the last light of the day. When I looked back at the rock it was bathed in orange light and there was still a rainbow in the sky. Back at the car we had a cuppa and some snacks and there was a beautiful orange sky.
Returning along Gardner Rd there were a number of Western Greys in the wheat fields, taking the total number of mammals seen that day to four, including Rabbits on Mt Caroline. The total number of Rock Wallabies seen would have been around twenty animals. We had an exciting drive North to Kellerberrin as an electrical storm was just North of us. There was both sheet and fork lightening flashing across the darkening sky. What a fabulous end to a marvellous day!
Tutanning NR – Thurs 25th Jan
The Australia Day public holiday was by now an annual event for me to visit the Wheatbelt Reserves. Dryandra last year, this year was Tutanning.
Later than planned I set off down the Brookton Highway for the drive to Tutanning. Ascending the Darling Range, I picked up the first mammal of the night a Fox. Despite being dusk and the worst time for large Macropods I only saw one Western Grey Kangaroo on the Darling Range, browsing on the roadside vegetation.
Less unobtrusive wildlife was a Tawny Frogmouth that nosedived the front of the car as I traversed through the wheat fields approaching Brookton. I turned around to remove the corpse from the road but the bird was nowhere to be seen. I hoped it had moved off at the last minute but sadly it was wedged into the grill on the front of the car.
I saw a second Western Grey that was stationary in the middle of the road driving East from Pingelly, then on arrival at Tutanning I picked up four Tawny Frogmouths in quick succession on Tutanning Rd. A quick spotlight on the road in the she-oak forest saw a Microbat added to the night’s tally.
The destination was of course Tammar Rd but driving past the gastrolobium thickets I worryingly didn’t see any Tammars only a mob of Western Greys!
Once parked up I wandered back down Tammar Rd and on the right of the road I saw a small mammal scarpering along some fallen branches. At first my thoughts were a Mardo or perhaps a Western Pygmy Possum but when the animal ascended a she-oak tree it became clear this was a Red-tailed Phascogale!
See a blog entirely on the Red-tailed Phascogale – Thermal Imaging Red-tailed Phascogales at Tutanning Nature Reserve
The Phascogale searched the higher branches of the she-oak to find an escape route, but it decided the surrounding trees were too far away to attempt an escape. Eventually it froze on a branch quite high up from where I was able to get pictures. This was a great view of this very agile, light shy, marsupial, what a marvellous start to the night!
It wasn’t long before I found the first Tammars of the evening, although my flash didn’t have the reach to photograph them!
I walked the boundary with the fields and then along Casuarina Rd but things were quiet. Returning to the car, I picked up a frog in my spotlight that remains a mystery to me although it probably is a White-footed Trilling Frog (Neobatrachus albipes.) I picked up eye shine in the fields that turned out to be another Heleioporous species, The Western Spotted Frog.
At the junction of Tammar Road with the fields there were more Tammars, but again the picture I so wanted eluded me. I saw another Western Spotted Frog before returning to the car. It had been a long return trip from Perth and definitely too much for one night.
The trip back to Perth was uneventful apart from another Tawny Frogmouth between Pingelly and Brookton and a further two Western Greys traversing the Darling Range. I think I should rename the Australia Day spotlight the Red-tailed Phascogale spotlight with two now seen in two years!
Dryandra Woodland – Friday 9th February 2018.
The WA summer had remained relatively cool with temperatures around 30C, and this was the case as I drove down to Dryandra to camp on a Friday afternoon after work. I disturbed a small black animal at the side of North Bannister–Wandering Rd, what I suspect was a Feral Pig. My first, and hopefully my last view of this destructive introduced species.
I drove Tomingley Rd West to Gnaala Mia Campsite and came across two Woylies sitting in the middle of the road. As I approached they bolted in opposite directions. Erecting the tent at the campsite as darkness fell I picked out my third Woylie in my headtorch foraging in the surrounding heath.
The wind was light and there was no moon as I set off for the night. Western Greys were on the side of York-Williams Rd then returning down Tomingley Rd I spotlighted a Woylie, Brushtail and Boobook Owl in quick succession.
Next, I drove North on the unnamed track between Tomingley and Koomal Roads, where two more Brushtails were added to the nights tally, and a Microbat was hunting where the track passes through a she-oak thicket.
My next spotlight on foot was where Marri Rd meets Koomal Rd, and I found all the Marri trees flowering. Each Marri had at least one Brushtail Possum feeding on the flowering canopy and there was plenty of screeches, grunts, growls and hisses to break the stillness of the night. It is almost certain that there would Western Pygmy Possums attracted to this mass flowering event although I didn’t find any. I did however see a Western Grey Kangaroo, then, as I drove South on Marri Rd I found an Echidna foraging.
On Kawana Rd I disturbed a Tawny Frogmouth in the car beam and it flew up into the
canopy, then at the Sandalwood Plantation I found a Woylie that was very confiding in the spotlight.
I returned back to Gnaala Mia Campsite via Coolbardie Rd and there were both Western Greys and two Tammar Wallabies fleeing into the woodland from the wheat fields. Finally, my first Tammar Wallabies at Dryandra, although I had seen Macropods in this area many times over the years, I didn’t ever consider they could be Tammars.
Birdlife at Gnaala Mia was great Saturday morning and as I packed up camp I saw all of Striated Pardalote, Red-capped parrot (attracted to flowering marri,) White-cheeked Honeyeater, Rufous Treecreeper and Red-capped Robin.
As I drove for breakfast at nearby Narrogin, I saw an upright shadow 100m ahead on Tomingley Rd and I instantly knew it was a Numbat. Despite approaching cautiously, the Numbat disappeared into the surrounding gastrolobium thickets. As I got out of the car I caught another glimpse of it further off into the bush and followed on foot, but I lost sight of it in the thick understory.
This was only my second Numbat at Dryandra and tenth in total. Each sighting has such a profound effect on me that I can remember all ten in detail, even years later. Truly a Western Australian icon!
Tutanning NR, Dryandra Woodland – Fri 23rd Sat 24th Sun 25th Feb.
Since my last trip to Tutanning I had purchased a “Better Beamer,” a device that “throws” the flash on the camera further. This I hoped was finally going to get me a picture of one of the skittish Tammar Wallabies so plentiful at Tutanning.
I decided rather than beating the rush hour traffic I would go home after work, pack the car and eat dinner and then set off. This of course meant a slower drive over the Darling Range to avoid collisions with Macropods. My first mammal of the night came in the form of a Fox as I approached Brookton.
I entered Tutanning via Stanes Rd and nearly got cleaned up by a Western Grey. After I had set up gear I drove down Tutanning Rd to Bee-eater Rd and parked the car far away from the Tammars to approach quietly on foot.
In the event there were none in the usual spots adjacent to the wheat fields but ascending Tammar Rd one was just off the road in the bush. I managed to fire off a couple of shots and finally a picture of a Tutanning Tammar for this article!
I walked Tammar Rd up to the granite outcrop and back and saw a Tawny Frogmouth. The Tammars were by now in the famers fields as I returned to the car. I got eyeshine from the woodland and found, as is customary at Tutanning, a Western Spotted Frog, but this frog was massive and was definitely the biggest of this species seen to date.
Almost immediately after I disturbed a Boobook Owl which then considered me from a tree before flying off.
Since my last visit to the Wheatbelt Reserves I had purchased a 4WD, mainly for the purpose of accessing some remote spots on my upcoming Kimberley trip later in the year, but also because so much of Tutanning (and small parts of Boyagin and Dryandra,) were inaccessible in a 2WD vehicle. This trip I hoped to check out a few new sites.
The first of these sites was on Rosella Rd and was a she-oak thicket mixed with a few good stag trees that I though was good for Red-tailed Phascogale on a previous walk through the area. There were no Phascogales but I did disturb a very cool Owlet Nightjar that flitted from shrub to shrub.
As I returned South of Tutanning Rd via Wambenger Rd I disturbed plenty more Western Greys. I drove Casuarina and Mopoke Roads to Tutanning Annex and picked up a rare (for Tutanning,) Brushtail Possum on the way. It was far too windy to set up camp at this end of the reserve, so I drove back to my usual camping spot on Tammar Rd. It was great to put the car in 4WD and traverse the Dutarning Range without fear of getting bogged.
After parking up I walked back down to the junction of Bee-eater Rd with Tammar Rd but there were no Tammars. I did however find my second Owlet Nightjar for the evening. It wasn’t too impressed with my spotlight and turned away from me on the branch it was on. Then it flew at me and for a moment I thought it was going to perch on my shoulder, before it flew off calling all the while!
A Microbat was using the Tammar Rd as it wound through the She-oak thicket to hunt and it passed close to me several times as I returned to camp.
After I had set up the tent it was getting late but I couldn’t resist one last chance to get more Tammar shots with the Better Beamer. There were plenty around, and I think they are using the sandy soil of the wheat fields to dig for moisture.
It was by now nearly 3am and quite chilly and definitely time to turn in for the night. I couldn’t believe that it was late February and I was in the Wheatbelt spotlighting in a hoodie for warmth, truly a very unusually cool Summer.
Saturday morning, after turning over a couple of times I finally woke up at 8am to a cool sunny morning. The plan for the morning after a cuppa was to drive and explore the tracks of Tutanning, and hopefully get my first Tutanning Numbat. In the event I got something far more exciting than a Numbat.
After packing up camp I visited the large granite outcrop on Tammar Road where there were plenty of Ornate Crevice Dragons not yet too warm so I managed a few photos. I drove around the South-Eastern end of the Reserve but apart from Western Greys I didn’t see too much. I did however see a couple of mountain bikers, these were the first people I had seen at this wonderfully isolated reserve.
At the Eastern end of Bandicoot Rd there was a plenitude of Rainbow Bee-eaters, probably because of the sandy ground which they use to nest. I spent ten minutes or so watching these colourful Summer inhabitants of the South West as they hunted insects.
In the South East of the Reserve I rounded a corner to find a lizard on the track. At first, I thought I had come across a Bull-headed Skink and carefully got out of the car so as not to alarm the reptile. I needn’t have worried though, this was a very slow-moving reptile indeed, the fabulous Thorny Devil. My favourite Australian animal, and only my second Thorny Devil.
This was a very large individual and almost looked synthetic with its vivid yellow and black colouration. Despite its fearsome appearance it is a very docile reptile, to be feared only by certain species of ants which consist of its entire diet. After photographs I was able to sit back and observe it as it made its way into the bush in its jerky mode of locomotion. This is no doubt one of its defence mechanisms to appear non-food like to avian predators because it is far too slow to escape such attentions otherwise.
The bulbous thorny tissue on the back of the neck is also another defence mechanism because if attacked it lowers its head to present this tissue as an alternative to its head. Its final protection is of course its thorn-like spiny scales that would make it difficult for even the hungriest predator to swallow!
Delighted with this find of the year and with the temperatures warming it was time to head off to Narrogin and the Duke of York Hotel for an afternoon nap before spotlighting Dryandra Saturday night.
I probably arrived at Dryandra a little too soon after dark, but after my late night the previous night I didn’t want another 3am finish. Things were indeed quiet as I drove Tomingley Rd to Old Mill Dam and it was only approaching the dam I got my first find of the night, a Tawny Frogmouth.
Briefly wandering around the dam area, I encountered two Brushtail Possums and two Western Grey Kangaroos. My next destination was the flowering marri on funny enough Marri Rd. Again, no Pygmy Possums but lots of the Brush-tailed variety feeding in the canopy, a Microbat on the wing and a mob of Western Greys grazing.
I saw another Brushtail driving West on Koomal Rd, then on Coolbardie Road the species started adding up with first another Tawny Frogmouth, then a Woylie, two Rabbits, another Woylie, Tammar Wallabies, a Boobook Owl, Western Greys and two more Brushtails on Gura Rd.
At the Sandalwood Enclosure a final Woylie for the night crossed the road in front of me, and I was able to get out of the car an observe it closely as it foraged for fallen sandalwood nuts.
The final mammals for the night were more Brushtail Possums in the flowering Marri at the junction of Newell Rd with Gura Rd. It is easy to think of Dryandra of consisting of Wandoo, Powderbark and She-oak only, but when the Marri is flowering it is easy to see how many of this species there are in the woodland.
Sunday morning, I drove around Dryandra, but apart from a few Western Greys it was quiet, not helped no doubt by the torrential downpour from a Summer storm that engulfed the woodland as I drove around. I did notice however that both here and Tutanning had large numbers of flowering Round-fruited Banksia. This Autumn flowering species was an indication that my year in the Wheatbelt Reserves was sadly coming to a close.
Tutanning NR, Dryandra Woodland – Sat 17th, Sun 18th March.
A very warm day was forecast as I drove down the Brookton Highway to Tutanning, Perth was heading for 38C and the Wheatbelt Reserves were not far behind. This was a last good chance to add reptiles to this blog before the hot Summer days became the cooler Autumn ones. It was 21C as I entered the reserve after 8am, with conditions already humid and overcast.
I drove North on Mopoke Rd disturbing some Western Greys and Galahs, before parking on White Gum Road to walk along the road. As I walked, I disturbed a Boobook Owl from an appealing looking hollow in a trunk up into the low canopy from where it looked on inquisitively. I managed a few photos before it spooked and flew further away.
I decided to focus on the Eastern end of the reserve and disturbed more Western Greys as I drove Bee-eater Rd around the reserve perimeter. Numbats were my target for the morning and I was keen to find my first Tutanning Numbat so I scoped Woylie, Bandicoot and Numbat Roads which look reasonable Numbat habitat to me.
In the event there were no Numbats around on this increasingly warm morning but I did find a Thorny Devil. This animal also in the South East of the Reserve and within 100m of the previous sighting on my last visit late February.
After a futile check of further roads for Numbats I called it a morning. Initially the plan had been to camp the night at Dryandra but with the heat and humidity rising I made the call to overnight at the Duke of York in Narrogin.
After an afternoon nap I made the short trip to Dryandra to explore new tracks and with temperatures still high I was not surprised to see wildlife.
After dinner at the Duke of York, I had to make a call between making a last visit to Tutanning for the purpose of this article or visiting nearby Dryandra. I decided on the former but I knew that with the current hot humid conditions it was going to be an action-packed night whichever reserve I chose.
The 70km drive one way from Narrogin to Tutanning saw my windscreen in need of a desperate wash, because with the hot night there were many flying insects on the wing. I arrived at Tutanning around 8.30pm and drove down to Tammar Rd where I picked up my first Tammar Wallaby grazing on the vegetation surrounding a granite outcrop. As I photographed the Wallaby a Microbat was hunting on the wing.
I parked the car to walk the remaining part of Tammar Rd and could hear two Boobook Owls calling to each other from the woods nearby so I was surprised to catch a Red-tailed Phascogale in my beam with two Owls calling so close. Unfortunately, the Phascogale was on a tree away from the track and by the time I made my way around the branches and tree trunks littering the forest floor I had lost the animal. This Phascogale was in almost exactly the same place that Ry Beaver and I saw one a couple of months earlier and was probably the same animal.
My next encounters were with first, a second Microbat flying overhead, then a Tawny Frogmouth dazzled by my beam which proceeded to crash into branches as it flew off.
There were four Tammar Wallabies in the wheat fields and an Echidna on the boundary road rounding off a hectic 15 minutes of spotlighting.
The purpose of this visit was to spotlight Woylie and Bandicoot Roads, so I returned to the car and drove Bee-eater Rd disturbing a second Tawny Frogmouth as I did. As I drove I spotlighted into the forest but this is hard going at Tutanning because of the rough nature of the tracks and I saw nothing of interest other than the Frogmouth all the way to Bandicoot Rd.
Here I decided to spotlight on foot but other than another Microbat and a few distant screeches and hisses of Brushtail Possums there was nothing doing. It had been a long day and I still had another hour drive back to Narrogin, I wondered perhaps would a better choice been to have visited nearby Dryandra as I drove back.
The following morning there was rain over town, although by the time I had packed the car it was slowing. I entered Dryandra Woodland from Turner Road and disturbed a Western Brush Wallaby that beat a hasty retreat in typical fashion. The only other wildlife seen this cool morning was an Echidna crossing Tomingley Rd, a sign that the long hot days are coming to a close when this mammal is once again seen in the daytime.
Boyagin NR / Dryandra Woodland – Sat 7th Sun 8th April.
The Boundary Track around the North East Block of Boyagin is extremely rough in one area where there are a series of laterite breakaways. I once did this track in 2WD, never again! Now that I had a 4WD it was possible to drive this section with relative ease, and I wanted to scout around for any of the Euros that are reputedly found at Boyagin.
A pleasant Autumn afternoon was passed driving the tracks of the reserve, interspersed with a few short walks. Although my target for the day the Euro remained elusive there were plenty of Western Grey Kangaroos, I was also pleased to find three Red-capped Robins over the course of the afternoon, one of my favourite birds of the Wheatbelt Reserves.
As the afternoon came to a close I drove the 30 minutes to Dryandra Woodland and entered via Turners Road. This was where I had seen a Western Brush Wallaby early morning on the previous visit and I wanted to try my luck again for this species. Unfortunately, a car travelling in the opposite direction foiled my plans and any Brush Wallabies would have long gone after this vehicle passed by so I made my way to Gnaala Mia Campsite picking up an Echidna on Tomingley Rd in the process.
Gnaala Mia was the busiest I had seen it, so I selected a campsite near the entrance, so that any late-night comings and goings would not disturb other campers. After I had set up the tent with light failing I drove the short distance to Narrogin and the Duke of York Hotel for dinner.
Returning to Dryandra I once again entered the woodland via Turners Rd and Colac Rd. There is an area of heath where I had noted large numbers of Round-fruited Banksia flowering on my daytime drive through the area. The plan was to search the heath for Western Pygmy Possums. A pair of Boobook Owls were calling as I started my search on what was a still moonless night. Thirty minutes searching the heath didn’t produce the Pygmy Possums but I did have a Microbat hunting overhead and what must be the largest moth I have ever seen landed next to me making me jump.
Further along Colac Rd as the road passed through a She-oak thicket I picked up a possum-like mammal on the ground, however its quick movement indicated it was something other than a possum and when I followed the animal in the thicket it shot up one of the she-oak trees. It was a Chuditch although the in the dense canopy I quickly realised a picture wasn’t possible. Nonetheless, this was a great start to the evening.
Further along Colac Road the road passes along a boundary with adjacent farmland and large numbers of Western Greys bounded across the road back into the woodland. Approaching Tomingley Rd, I picked up my first Brushtail Possum of the night.
I parked the car at the Old Mill Dam and the call of another Boobook echoed through the forest, then during a quick scout around the dam I located a number of Brushtails. In the dam waters there were two species of frog. The first, a Motorbike Frog was splayed on the surface near the middle of the dam, the second was a juvenile Banjo Frog in the shallow waters at the edge of the dam that took off to the safety of deeper waters once disturbed. There were also good numbers of Western Greys in the woodland around the dam.
As I drove Gura Road to the Sandalwood Plantation I saw a further four Brushtail Possums alongside the road, a few of which froze for pictures. In addition, there were a few Western Greys around.
On foot at the Sandalwood Plantation there were none of the usual Woylies but another Brushtail Possum made an appearance. I walked through the trees to the back of the plantation and beyond into the woodland when something caught my eye. It was a Red-tailed Phascogale! This animal moved around the she-oak tree in usual quick fashion. I managed a couple of pictures but as with the Chuditch earlier on the dense canopy made photographs hard. Then I heard a rustling in the leaflitter behind me and I thought I had found my first Dryandra Quenda, but further investigation revealed an Echidna.
I relocated the Phascogale on another branch of the tree but I was mindful that prolonged exposure to my bright beam was not in the best interest of the Phascogale so I returned to the car.
After a brief interlude at the car I wrote up notes before returning for another spotlight. The moon had by this time made an appearance but low cloud ensured that the night remained dark. I couldn’t believe it when once again a Phascogale made an appearance, it wasn’t in the same location as the previous sighting but this was probably the same animal. I lost it almost immediately.
Cutting my losses, it was time to continue my circuit of Gura / Coolbardie Road but then I picked up another sighting of a Phascogale. This time the animal descended from the trees to fallen branches on the ground and one of these fallen trees had a fissure which the Phascogale retreated to. I kept my distance and watched the Phascogale hunt for insects disappearing into the hollow of the trunk.
The animal then reappeared and provided I kept my beam off the animal it was quite confiding. Moths by this time were of course attracted to the light and I was delighted to see this miniscule carnivore hunt the moths attracted to the beam.
To observe this Phascogale at close quarters for a prolonged period of time was such a privilege, and of the experience, the thing that stays with me was watching the heartbeat in the chest that was like a jackhammer. This heartbeat of this tiny mammal would have exceeded in one minute my own heartbeat in an hour, I can truly understand now how their lifespan is so short, these small mammals really do live life in the fast lane.
Sadly, I knew I could observe the Phascogale no longer, I had to let it continue with its night and I mine. It was time to move on and let my mind process this intense and wonderful marsupial encounter. A last treat of the Sandalwood Plantation came in the form of a Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a fencepost.
Returning to the drive along Gura Road I encountered more Brushtails ascending to the farmers fields but the Tammar Wallabies I have previously seen at this location were absent. On Coobardie Road a very large Boobook Owl was sitting in a tree next to the road.
Returning the loop to Tomingley on Marri Road there were more Brushtails and finally on Tomingley Road itself I finally flushed a Woylie. By the time I reached Gnaala Mia it was a respectable 3.30am. What a night!
During the night I was briefly woken by an animal hopping by but was too exhausted to investigate. I spent the following morning driving the tracks of the woodland hoping for a Western Brush Wallaby but to no avail, indeed it was a very quiet morning animal wise. However, Dryandra turned on a beautiful Autumn day where it was a pleasure to be in the Australian bush. At midday I returned to Perth in desperate need of an afternoon nap.
Mt Caroline Nature Reserve – Sat 21st April
For this long drive out to the Central Wheatbelt The initial plan was to visit Mt Caroline and then Mt Gardner but due to time constraints I managed only the former on the day.
As I climbed the granite outcrop I caught a flash of bright red bound off into the distance far away to the right, although my view was brief I was certain by the colour of the animal that this was a Euro (Common Wallaroo.) I was certain that this species would be found in the reserve but it was great to have visual confirmation.
The Rock Wallabies were at the usual site at the steepest part of the granite outcrop, and I was able to catch glimpses of them as they beat a hasty retreat.
I had a scout around the higher areas of the granite and although the Rock Wallabies weren’t around in the high numbers of the previous visit I managed a few photos.
In Common with the last visit to Mount Caroline, on the return journey to Perth there was lightening storms. This time the storms started on the approach to the Darling Scarp and were a result of the first cold front of Autumn to pass over the Southwest. This of course meant it was an excellent chance to see frogs especially burrowing frogs (Heleioporous sp.)
I stopped near the town of Chidlow to search for the most geographically restricted of the burrowing frogs, the Hooting Frog. This is also the largest of the WA burrowing frogs which are found around ephemeral streams which it needs to breed.
At the site it didn’t take long to find the first Hooting Frog given away by its dull eyeshine. This was the first of five Hooting Frogs and two Banjo Frogs located in 20 minutes. The Hooting Frog is also found at both Boyagin and Dryandra.
It had been a long 11 hour day and it was time to return home. As a final highlight I was treated to fork lightening over the Swan Coastal Plain as I descended the Darling Scarp. What a great finish to a wonderful day in the bush.
Dryandra Woodland – Fri 27th Sat 28th April
Friday afternoon I managed to flex off work early and arrived in Dryandra Woodland late afternoon. It was the tail end of a sunny day and I decided before setting up camp to have a drive around and look for any Numbats. The late afternoon sun bathed the woodland in a golden light and driving around I disturbed a pair of Bronzewings into the trees. The only mammal I saw was a Western Grey Kangaroo before it was time to head for Gnaala Mia and set up camp.
This weekend was definitely about wildlife, but also, I wanted to relax and enjoy my last weekend at Dryandra. After I had put up the tent, I built a fire in the firepit then when beer o’clock arrived I took out my folded chair and cracked a beer. As the daylight faded to be replaced by bright moonlight from a nearly full moon a crescendo of Western Spotted Frogs called from Congelin Dam nearby. I didn’t have to go anywhere for my first mammal when a Woylie bounced past the campsite!
I had purchased a new Wolf Eyes X Beam torch that had a red beam option, so the aim of the night was to check out some areas of heath for Pygmy Possums, but with the moon almost full and the night still, conditions were far from ideal. Over the course of the night I checked out heath on Nyingarn Rd, Tomingley Rd and Colac Rd but with no luck.
Driving around the woodland the numbers of larger mammals was better with plenty of Western Grey Kangaroos, Brushtail Possums and Woylies and returning to the campsite along Tomingley Rd a Western Brush Wallaby.
Although the calls of Western Spotted Frogs were echoing throughout the woodland I only saw one of this species on the surface and that was at the Old Mill Dam.
When I woke Saturday morning the sky was overcast and conditions cool. I decided to have a drive around and see if any mammals were active and had success with a Western Brush Wallaby at the junction of Tomingley and Baaluc Roads.
Later in the morning I drove into Narrogin for breakfast via Colac and Turner Roads and disturbed a mob of ten Western Greys on Colac Road. There is something truly majestic seeing a mob of Kangaroos bounding through the bush at full speed.
When I returned to Dryandra the day was approaching its high of 25C so I wasn’t surprised to see an Echidna crossing Gura Road.
I spent the afternoon at camp watching Skinks darting along the fallen mallet trunks, drinking tea and even managed a nap. Late afternoon I had a drive around and it wasn’t long before I encountered a second Echidna. I got happily lost driving the tracks at the Southern end of the Woodland before returning to camp.
The plan for the final night was dinner was at the Duke of York in Narrogin before returning to Dryandra for a spotlight and then many beers around the fire to see off a Year in the Wheatbelt Reserves.
Dinner was fabulous as always at the Duke of York, afterwards when I returned to the campsite to get changed a Woylie was once again foraging near the tent at Gnaala Mia. I set off down Tomingley Rd and almost ran over something sitting in the middle of the road, slamming on the brakes to avoid collision. It was a small bird which I moved off to the verge. I took a picture and later identified it as a Painted Button Quail.
The following two hours I drove Coolbardie and Gura Roads and the species were much the same as the previous night with plenty of Brushtail Possums, Western Grey Kangaroos, a single Western Brush Wallaby at the Northern end of Gura Road then the final mammal a Woylie in the mallet plantation alongside York-Williams Road.
Back at the campsite, early for once I got the fire roaring, music going and the beer flowing and for once in Dryandra I just enjoyed being. It was a fabulous moonlit night with the temperature just right and as the effect of the beer took hold I felt nostalgic about what had been a wonderful year in the Wheatbelt Reserves. #NatureNeverFailsToImpress!