August 27 - September 2, 2023: Issue 596
Ringtail Posse 7: August 2023
Geoff Searl OAM: Tawny Frogmouth, Peter Macinnis: echidna, Peter Carter: Ringtail Possum, Nathan Wellings; Kookaburra
Readers have pointed out that the Ringtail Posse Rounds run so far have been ladies heavy – so this Round, a blokes only focus – because blokes love our wildlife too and it’s more than ok for them to say so.
The gentlemen who run in the August 2023 have all grown up in our area, some even have connections to this place that go back over several generations and 100 years.
Ringtail: from the 'Common Ringtail Possum' which is not so common anymore in urban areas. The Common Ringtail Possum is found along the entire eastern part of Australia and south west Western Australia. They are also found throughout Tasmania. The western ringtail possum is a threatened species under State and Commonwealth legislation. In Western Australia the species is listed as Critically Endangered fauna under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
Posse: noun. 1 : a large group often with a common interest 2 : a body of persons summoned by a sheriff to assist in preserving the public peace usually in an emergency 3 : a group of people temporarily organised to make a search (as for a lost child) 4 : one's attendants or associates.
On Wednesday June 21st 2023 a Motion regarding Heritage Protection was passed in the NSW Parliament. Tabled by The Hon. Peter Primrose, contributors to the discussion spoke of the Minns Government's commitment to developing the State's first heritage strategy, in which the Government will develop options to recognise and protect significant trees, urban bushland and wildlife corridors.
This was, of course, music to the ears of all who are working at ground level in these areas to safeguard the survival of the urban wallaby, koala, lizard, skink, snake, bandicoot, every bird of woodland, water and grassland, insects and every other wildlife species we share suburbia with.
In recent approved DA’s Council is listing as a requirement of consent in Assessment reports to look after the other residents of this area, the wildlife. On blocks where people wish to remove large amounts of trees that are clearly homes for local fauna a wildlife expert must assess these prior to any removal taking place, nesting boxes are required to be installed afterward and Ecologists must be on site during their removal.
Recent examples and instances are:
Long-nosed Bandicoots & Little Penguins – Best Practices for Residents
Residents are encouraged to follow a number of Best Practices to assist with the protection and management of the endangered populations of Long-nosed Bandicoots and Little Penguins:
Long-nosed Bandicoots, Little Penguins and other native animals should never be fed as it may cause them nutritional problems, hardship if supplementary feeding is stopped, and it may increase predation.
Feral cats or foxes should never be fed or food left out where they can access it, such as rubbish bins without lids or pet food bowls, as these animals present a significant threat to Long-nosed Bandicoots, Little Penguins and other wildlife.
The use of insecticides, fertilisers, poisons and/or baits should be avoided on the property.
Garden insects will be kept in low numbers if Long-nosed Bandicoots are present.
When the North Head Long-nosed Bandicoot Recovery Plan is released it should be implemented where relevant.
Dead Long-nosed Bandicoots or Little Penguins should be reported by phoning Manly Council on 9976 1500 or Department of Environment and Conservation on 9960 6266.
Please drive carefully as vehicle related injuries and deaths of Long-nosed Bandicoots and Little Penguins have occurred in the area. Care should also be taken at night in the drive way when moving cars as bandicoots will seek shelter beneath vehicles.
Cat/s and or dog/s that currently live on the property should be kept indoors at night to avoid disturbance/death of native animals. Ideally, when the current cat/s and/or dog/s that live on the property no longer reside on the property it is recommended that they not be replaced by new dogs or cats.
Report all sightings of feral rabbits, feral or stray cats and/or foxes to N B Council.
Protection of Habitat Features
All natural landscape features, including any rock outcrops, native vegetation and/or watercourses, are to remain undisturbed during the construction works, except where affected by necessary works detailed on approved plans.
Reason: To protect wildlife habitat.
The Reason given in all instances is: To protect native wildlife.
This follows on from the 2022 Local Government NSW Conference where a Motion was passed - That Local Government NSW lobby the NSW Government to:
- In conjunction with industry associations, introduce enforceable standards for the preparation of flora and fauna management plans.
- Consider Codes of Practice and Guidelines for handling native wildlife and other best practice and animal welfare laws in development of the standards.
- Consult with Councils, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Ecological Consultants Association of NSW, wildlife rescue organisations and other relevant agencies in the preparation of standards.
Such a standard should include requirements for:
- Pre-clearance surveys to be carried out to establish which species are present on the site, including identification of any threatened and native species.
- The identification of suitable nearby areas where wildlife could possibly be relocated.
- The provision of possum, glider and bat boxes sufficiently in advance of vegetation clearing to allow wildlife time to discover the boxes and become familiar with them.
- Compliance with the NSW Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Protected Fauna and the licencing requirements contained in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
- Best practice for wildlife handling and care (including contact with local wildlife rescue groups).
- Reporting of injured or killed fauna to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to enable the data to be used in statewide biodiversity monitoring programs.
The premise of this is that mandatory pre-clearance surveys to establish what wildlife lives there before works commence, and to document this in a formal way, should be required on any site that has vegetation and for which a DA has been approved. The experience is that often vegetation is removed before an application is submitted, often leaving wildlife with no home. Wildlife then ends up on roads dead or dies after being displaced/evicted.
One wildlife carer cited a recent Pittwater case of a powerful owl pair site that had had vegetation removed to make the development more likely to proceed – the nest and two babies were destroyed.
‘It’s hard to prove wildlife is/was present after the clearing as they aren’t there.’
‘Once trees and vegetation are removed the problem is where do these animals go?’
Powerful Owls are also not so common anymore in urban areas.
However it's clear human residents of this LGA have a deep and abiding love for and connection to these other furry, scaled, finned and feathered locals. We listen for them during the night, happy when we hear their footsteps scampering across our rooves and fences or their soft hoots across the valleys.
We look out for them during the day, delighted with their presence.
Residents here are distressed when they find injured wildlife or witness wildlife being attacked. They are not in denial that all our local wildlife feels and thinks - they cry when their babies are killed in front of them, mourn the loss of a mate - people who have heard or seen this never forget.
Data kept by the NSW Environment Department, although only listing incidents from June 2013 to June 30 2021, shows that 33,391 wildlife animals have been rescued in our area between June 2013 and June 30 2021 and just 8, 812 released again. Of these 42 were threatened species.
Data to 30 June 2021 lists of the 5, 235 animals rescued during that 2020 to 2021 period just 1,573 were released. Across NSW during that same year a total 120, 927 animals were rescued and just 28, 805 released - 5, 122 of these were were threatened species (104 kinds) of which just 1,180 were released.
These figures and data do not take into account all the wildlife found deceased beside or on roads or elsewhere.
Overall the data states 723, 438 animals have been rescued across New South Wales and 181, 468 released.
''This study draws on 469,553 rescues reported over six years by wildlife rehabilitators for 688 species of bird, reptile, and mammal from New South Wales, Australia.... Of the 364,461 rescues for which the fate of an animal was known, 92% fell within two categories: ‘dead’, ‘died or euthanised’ (54.8% of rescues with known fate) and animals that recovered and were subsequently released (37.1% of rescues with known fate).''In total, there were 872,087 records reported during the six-year (2013–14 to 2018–19) study period. Just over 97% of these came from three animal groups–birds, mammals, and reptiles. Of the total number of records, 402,534, (46%) were excluded from the descriptive analysis because they: a) did not contain any information about the animal, or the animal’s identification was ambiguous and could not be placed within a group (e.g. an ‘unidentified animal’); b) contained only sightings of animals and were not attended to in some way by a wildlife rehabilitator; c) were records of amphibians (373 records) or non-vertebrate fauna (e.g. spiders, insects, etc.); d) were non-avian marine vertebrates such as whales, seals, sharks, rays, fish etc; e) were reported as floating, drowned, or washed up animals (deemed an ambiguous cause for rescue, n = 48); f) contained both an ‘unknown’ cause for rescue and an ‘unknown’ fate; or f) were an introduced or spurious species (e.g. extinct, or out of known range). These exclusions resulted in a dataset for descriptive analysis of 469,553 records i.e. 54% of the initially reported amount.''
Many people state we are the generation witnessing the extinction of urban wildlife. There has been generation after generation of humans living alongside and with wildlife, until this one.
It's not just the Pittwater koalas that have gone, other species, like the ringtail possum or long-nosed bandicoot are disappearing, along with their joyful snuffles and squeaks, from our urban backyards and the trees that tower over them.
There is a growing silence at night for those species that forage for food then - possums, wallabies, owls. The same is occurring for those that are active during daylight.
Although many point to the impacts of cat and dog attacks due to irresponsible owners, there is also what is termed the 'inconvenient possum' in a roof or garden shed, because its home tree has been cut down. These are caught by those hired, some of whom have little knowledge or scruples, and release them into areas out of their home range - a death sentence for that possum as this species is territorial, along with requiring certain food trees in order to eat, to survive.
There is predation by other introduced species - readers regularly send in photos and videos of foxes roaming and killing at night.
There are roadkill black spots, places where wallabies or turtles or possums used to cross the area where a road has been cut through and a speed limit that means death for wildlife. There are no 'speed humps' in place, and no plan at a local, state or federal government level to install these. Residents and wildlife rescuers have reported some drivers 'aiming straight for' a stricken animal.
There is the razing of blocks of land for development prior to any required assessment of the environment taking place to circumvent those requirements so a report can state 'nothing present'. There is nothing present because its habitat has been cleared or the wildlife killed by these actions.
Our local wildlife carers are exhausted, state there have been so many, too many so far this year - they are increasingly heartbroken with all the babies they lose, they cry every day, and then pick themselves up and get on with trying to save the next critter, and the next.
Wildlife carers are all volunteers - they do the rescues, sometimes horrific rescues, run to and fro from the great local vets who help out trying to save them, they gather or pay for the food, for the milk, for the petrol, for the electricity to keep bubs warm. There are no grants or funding for Australia's wildlife carers - they have to raise funds through running events, raising awareness, collecting cans for a 10 cent return.
This year a celebration of residents' favourite wildlife runs as Profiles across 2023 - simply to allow those who love a chosen 'critter' to speak for them a little, to remind us of what is here and what we feel connected to has feelings too.
Information about these species and how many or why we are losing them is included - just so we can think about how we, as individuals and as one community, can turn around that growing silent emptiness closing in around us and these other ones we love.
Ultimately the founders of the Ringtail Posse are hoping everyone chooses to become a Member of the Ringtail Posse and keep their other loved one safer in its one and only home.
Reason?: To Protect Local Wildlife so it becomes 'common' and safer for our wildlife to be everywhere once more.
Further studies and reports that have come out since the last Ringtail Posse Round, along with relative information, runs below these four gentleman's favourite local wildlife species.
To join in please email us with 'Ringtail Posse' in the subject line - with so many local species of wildlife, vital insects and seals flopping around on the sand or penguins flitting through the seas and estuary, there are several on the lists that haven't been claimed for guardianship yet - what's yours?
Round 7 of Ringtail Posse Profiles includes the following now officially joined Members:
Geoff Searl OAM
Avalon Beach legend, grew up in the area. President of the Avalon Beach Historical Society, Life Member of Avalon Beach SLSC, Volunteer Bushcarer, J.P.,
What is your favourite local wildlife species?
Without question the Tawny Froggies (Tawny Frogmouth).
Why do you like the Tawny Frogmouths?
They’re so gorgeous, the parents are so loving of each other – I really get off on that; the two of them sitting side by side, just looking like a really happily married couple, I think they’re gorgeous. Plus their babies are so cute, you’d just love to cuddle them too – they’re gorgeous. I love everything about the Tawnies; the sound they make, the families they clearly are, I love everything about them.
How long have seen or heard the Tawny Frogmouths?
We have a 70 year old melaleuca at the front of the house and there was a couple that used to live up in there. For some reason they disappeared – it might have been when we got a dog, we’re not sure what the story was. But they then appeared at a friends place just one street down from us but then she moved and we haven’t seen them for ages – very sad for us. We haven’t seen any Tawny Frogmouths apart from a bushwalk through McKay Reserve or somewhere like that.
Have you noticed any changes in the number of tawny Frogmouths your local neighbourhood?
Well for us, because we had such a lovely intimate connection, the contact with them has diminished, solely due to no longer have that connection with the two that were living in our mighty melaleuca. I haven’t seen any around anywhere else either – not even in Angophora Reserve, where we spend 3 hours a month in there with the bushcare group.
Have you heard any at night?
Yes, sometimes we hear a little bit of them at night – but always far off, across the valley, but still not much then. You can hear them when it’s super quiet, but always at a distance.
Tawny Frogmouths in care at Bilgola Plateau last year. Photo: Michael Mannington, OAM
Geoff Searl OAM, President of the Avalon Beach Historical Society. Photo: A J Guesdon.
Unfortunately we are losing a lot of our local Tawny Frogmouths to rat poisons, along with other species of owls and raptors. In the past week one resident found a dead Tawny Frogmouth on his driveway at Careel Bay, it had not bene struck by a car, it had died from consuming poison. At south Avalon a brown goshawk found by a resident was taken to Taronga Zoo but unfortunately could not be saved as it had consumed something that had consumed a rat poison.
At the October 2022 Council Meeting Cr. Glanville put up a motion for council to phase out the use of all anticoagulant rat poisons by April this year, along with reporting by May on the use of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, insecticides, rodenticides and chemical management of vertebrate animals. Ms Glanville accepted an amendment for staff to brief councillors within four weeks on the environmental and financial costs and benefits of using SGARS or alternatives and the feasibility of phasing out their use amongst Council contractors. At the November 2022 Council Meeting it was Resolved that Council:
1. Council phase out use of Second-generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARs) on land owned or managed by Council.
2. The Chief Executive Officer report back to Council by August 2023:
A. progress of the phase out of SGARs by Council and relevant third parties (eg suppliers, contractors, tenants)
B. considerations as to usage of other chemicals on Council lands that may pose environment or human health risks
C. available alternative methods and implications for Council.
3. Council seek opportunities to further educate the community regarding SGARs and other harmful chemicals and recommendations for safe alternatives.
No Report and nothing else on this subject was listed for the August 2023 Council Agenda. Concerned residents can contact Cr. Glanville and their other representatives on what progress council has made and when the Report on progress to phase these deadly chemicals has been made.
Addresses were given on this subject by Birdlife Australia’s Urban Bird program coordinator, Dr Annie Naimo, and wildlife carer and retired toxicologist Edwina Laginestra at that October 2022 Meeting. These run as follows:
My name is Edwina Laginestra, I’m a local wildlife carer, and retired-scientist specialising in toxicology
Rodenticides – both first generation and second generation anti coagulants – are used to kill “pest rodents” but increasingly it is harming our wildlife. Especially in winter, many unwanted creatures come into our homes and other buildings for warmth and food. People see ratbait as an easy and out-of-mind solution but don’t generally think about other impacts. Our wildlife is affected both directly (as I have treated both brushtail possums and blue tongue lizards for ratbait) and indirectly (as predators such as raptors eat the baited rodents which are sick and an easy catch and have residual poison concentrations). Many pets are also affected. SGARs have been banned in other countries due to longevity in the environment.
Treating baited wildlife is horrific and most do NOT survive. Rodents take around 3 to 9 days to die, but animals with slower metabolisms, such as our marsupials, take longer. Regarding SGARs it takes 14 days for symptoms to show in a possum and 21 days for it to die (from NZ research). If we can get it early we have a chance and have to treat the possum for 6-8 weeks (volunteer carers pay for treatment, and vets may charge us at cost only). However, sometimes we do not know what we are dealing with and by the time the symptoms show it is too late. I have treated well over a dozen brushtail possums. I think only 3 survived – 2 were young and OK with treatment in captivity. One was an adult male who was in care for 3 months – ratbait treatment then physio and containment for regaining muscle strength. The Koagulon he was treated with cost $150. Often we get in a beautiful mum that has been baited and have to try and save the joey that may already be bleeding internally.
Earlier this year I picked up a beautiful barn owl that was sitting in the middle of Seaforth Oval – a dog had attacked it even though the owner was quick to realise what was happening. But the owl was now badly injured. Why could the dog attack it and break a wing and pelvis? Because it was already unwell with eating baited rodents. What an horrific end of life. We have been picking up boobooks and Tawny Frogmouths that were likely baited but it is only recently there has been funding to test for harmful chemicals.
I have also picked up many ringtail possums that have eaten tips of freshly sprayed hedges. They foam at the mouth and spin as they die (which can take more than 8 hours). I spoke to Yates about systemic treatments in some plants for psyllids. They felt the poison may be active within the plant (and leaves) for up to 6 months. So although ringtail possums rarely take SGARs, they are very vulnerable to herbicides. However yesterday I had a ringtail die suddenly – he’d been in care for 5 days, but suddenly he was very thirsty and dizzy. I administered fluids and antibiotics (as he’d had surgery) but he died with blood coming out of his nose, paws and abdomen. He was probably already dying for a week before coming into care. He may have eaten bait due to habitat and food loss.
Photo: brushtail joey un-emerged rodenticide, image supplied
Wildlife carers are the volunteers that spend the most money on their volunteering. We also already have quite a number of patients already in care. Giving drugs and physio adds extra time to our care load. We also spend time taking them to the vet who are also pressed for time and often treat wildlife for free. Sometimes we simply do not know what we are dealing with and administer treatment too late or incorrectly and we can make symptoms worse. This causes great anxiety as well. If there are actions others can take to avoid wildlife coming into care that would be most helpful – regarding pest management there are many other options in the cities – including the natural pest management our wildlife provides. Watching an animal get worse and die in care is tough emotionally and physically.
Barn Owl that died from Ratbait secondary poisoning. Image supplied
Dr Annie Naimo, Urban Bird Program Coordinator, BirdLife Australia
I’m writing on behalf of BirdLife Australia to support your motion to phase out the use of Second-generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARs).
BirdLife Australia is an independent non-partisan science-based bird conservation charity with over 300,000 supporters. Our primary objective is to conserve and protect Australia’s native birds and their habitat. We are the national partner of BirdLife International, the world’s largest conservation partnership.
Second-generation anticoagulants pose an extreme threat to native birds and wildlife. SGARs take several days to kill pests, and in this time accumulate in the body of poisoned animals.
SGARs persist in the body for a long duration, and in carcasses after death- posing additional risk to wildlife that may prey upon poisoned animals.
In greater Sydney, research undertaken by BirdLife Australia has found fatal levels of SGARs in dead Powerful Owls, a vulnerable species. Further Australian studies have shown similar fatal levels of SGARs in other birds of prey, such as Southern Boobooks and Wedge-tailed Eagles.
Other Australian wildlife are also at risk and have had documented instances of SGAR poisoning, including marsupials, native rodents, and reptiles, as well as pet cats and dogs.
Because of the clear evidence and risks, SGARs have been heavily regulated in Europe, Canada, and the USA. Many other local governments areas in NSW are already phasing out SGARs in their community, including Randwick, Wollongong, Tweed Shire, Port Macquarie-Hastings and Kiama.
Importantly, there are alternative pest control products available (e.g. first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, non-anticoagulant rodenticides including cholecalciferol) that are similarly as effective as SGARs, but pose significantly less environmental risk when administered correctly.
To support you in your transition away from SGARs, BirdLife Australia has developed an Action Kit for Councils. The Action Kit details how SGARs threaten wildlife and pets, provides effective ways that councils can move to alternative pest control methods, and includes links to additional resources to help you to keep your local community safe.
There is also a BirdLife Australia Open Letter you can add your name to. This calls for government Ministers to help get dangerous Second-generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides regulated properly in Australia. More at: www.actforbirds.org/ratpoison
In our LGA 103 Tawny Frogmouths have been rescued and 29 released in the June 2020 to June 2021 data period alone - 861 have been rescued and just 222 released over the whole of the June 2013 to June 2021 data period recorded - which may not be as accurate as hoped - as explained above, and also list a further 461 'unidentified' birds that have been rescued and a further 16 'dependent young' without a species classification allocated.
Collisions with motor vehicles and ‘unsuitable environment’ are listed as the primary reasons for the birds coming into care. Disease, listed as an ‘internal parasite’ is also listed. Obviously deaths from poisons needs to be added to causes of mortalities.
Tawny frogmouths will often perch at the sides of roads where streetlights attract moths. Another reason to slow down on our local roads.
The tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is a species of frogmouth native to the Australian mainland and Tasmania and found throughout. It is a big-headed, stocky bird, often mistaken for an owl, due to its nocturnal habits and similar colouring, and sometimes, at least archaically, referred to as mopoke, a name also used for the Australian boobook, the call of which is often confused with that of the tawny frogmouth.
Tawny frogmouths are carnivorous and are considered to be among Australia's most effective pest-control birds, as their diet consists largely of species regarded as vermin or pests in houses, farms, and gardens. The bulk of their diet is composed of large nocturnal insects, such as moths, as well as spiders, worms, slugs, and snails but also includes a variety of bugs, beetles, wasps, ants, centipedes, millipedes, and scorpions. Large numbers of invertebrates are consumed to make up sufficient biomass, as are reptiles and frogs, and birds.
The conservation status of tawny frogmouths is "least concern" due to their widespread distribution. However, a number of ongoing threats to the health of the population are known. Many bird and mammalian carnivores are known to prey upon the tawny frogmouth. Native birds, including ravens, butcherbirds, and currawongs, may attempt to steal the protein-rich eggs to feed their own young. Birds of prey such as hobbies and falcons, as well as rodents and tree-climbing snakes, also cause major damage to the clutches by taking eggs and nestlings. In subtropical areas where food is available throughout the year, tawny frogmouths sometimes start brooding earlier in winter to avoid the awakening of snakes after brumation. Since 1998, a cluster of cases of neurological disease has occurred in tawny frogmouths in the Sydney area, caused by the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a rat lungworm.
Peter is a science writer, and has also been a teacher and museum educator. The author of twenty books for adults and children, Peter has just completed The Nature of North Head. The work covers the history, geology and biology of North Head, one of the sentinels guarding Sydney Harbour. As a volunteer in the plant nursery there, and as a trained biologist, I have detailed knowledge of the lower and higher plants, the invertebrates and the vertebrates, as well as the geology of the area. This is a guide and companion for walkers and wanderers. Available on Kindle, and also as a free low resolution PDF.
Peter says, ‘’ I work on North Head as a volunteer, weeding, planting and doing other stuff to help maintain a fragile system, but I am also a lifelong educator, and wearing that hat, I decided to generate a web site about the place, and host it myself. It was to show the casual visitor just how much more was there to be seen.’’
What is your favourite local wildlife species?
The echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus aculeatus.
Why do you like the echidna?
I like the species because a few are trusting enough to walk over my feet, and the rest don't run away. Also, they have the most amazing genomes that you could imagine, and like naked mole rats and humans, they live for much longer than you would predict from their body mass: the record appears to be fifty years. Like the wombat in Ivan Smith's Death of a Wombat, their locomotion is waddle-and-crump. I see them while walking the tracks, though sometimes when I am working, one will come over to supervise me.
As a rule, I only handle wildlife when it is absolutely essential, but some years back, we found one trapped in a locked drain on North Head and we knew the drain was due to flood, which would have drowned it. The rangers unlocked the drain, but then left me to try to persuade the animal to let go of a ladder that went down into the drain. I was kneeling on steel mesh, and likely to pitch head-first into a metre of water. The rangers cheerily told me they would haul me out by the ankles...
Echidnas are amazingly strong and stubborn, and also spiny, but knowing the beasts' habits fairly well, I pulled a trick (only other wranglers need to know the details) that persuaded it to let go. I set it gently down on sandy soil, where it dug in, ignoring me completely. I like that sort of independence.
Also, echidnas' back feet point backwards, and they are found from the highest mountains down to the sea, from Cape York to Tasmania to Cape Leeuwin in WA and across the Top End. Even bush flies cover less of the continent.
Echidna 'hair'. Photo: Peter Macinnis
How long have seen or heard the echidna?
I met my first one in the Budawang Ranges in 1970, and twelve years back, having joined the volunteers at North Head, I started seeing them there. My best score was three in one day, two of those being while I took 40 Architecture students around while we discussed land care methods and management. The second mugged to all their cameras, even licking the lenses. How can you hate such total media tarts?
Have you noticed any changes in the number of echidnas in your local neighbourhood?
We believe that we have 19 echidnas up there (North Head), of whom I have seen perhaps a dozen, and I think two of those recognise me. There is no predicting where or when they will show up, but we echidna obsessives report them to a citizen science group, Echidna CSI, and we believe that the echidnas will still be there, after humans wipe themselves off the face of the planet.
North Head Echidna. Photo: Peter Macinnis
North Head Echidna on the fire trail. Photo: Peter Macinnis
''There's more to bush regen than planting, but weeding reflects cruelty to plants :-) '' - Peter Macinnis
There have been 378 echidnas rescued across this LGA in the collected data between June 2013 and June 30 2021, and just 109 re-released. Collision with motor vehicles is listed as the primary cause for rescues - echidnas will cross roads to move between urban habitats, with an increasing likelihood of road fatalities during the breeding season for this species. Breeding season begins in late June and extends through September. Males will form lines up to ten individuals long, the youngest echidna trailing last, that follow the female and attempt to mate. During a mating season an echidna may switch between lines. This is known as the "train" system.
Echidnas, sometimes known as spiny anteaters, are quill-covered monotremes (egg-laying mammals) belonging to the family Tachyglossidae. The four extant species of echidnas and the platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs and the only surviving members of the order Monotremata. The diet of some species consists of ants and termites. Echidnas evolved between 20 and 50 million years ago, descending from a platypus-like monotreme. This ancestor was aquatic, but echidnas adapted to life on land.
Echidnas are very timid animals. When they feel endangered they attempt to bury themselves or if exposed they will curl into a ball similar to that of a hedgehog, both methods using their spines to shield them. Strong front arms allow echidnas to continue to dig themselves in whilst holding fast against a predator attempting to remove them from the hole.
Although they have a way to protect themselves, the echidnas still face many dangers. Predators include feral cats, foxes, domestic dogs, and goannas. Snakes pose a large threat to the echidna species because they slither into their burrows and prey on the young spineless puggles.
Some precautions that can be taken include keeping the environment clean by picking up litter and causing less pollution, planting vegetation for echidnas to use as shelter, supervising pets, reporting hurt echidnas, and leaving them undisturbed. Merely grabbing them may cause stress, while picking them up improperly may result in injury.
Avalon Beach SLSC Boat Captain, third generation Careel Bay gentleman – Peter’s family have been in our area for over 100 years.
What is your favourite local wildlife species?
The ringtail possum. We used to have little ringtails come around the house all the time. We had a blind mother that would bring her babies and we’d feed them.
The main diet of the Ringtail Possum is eucalyptus leaves although they will eat other foods such as fruits, flowers and leaves of other native trees. They are also known to eat rose buds in suburban areas, so we were well set to help out when she needed it, especially when she had new babies.
It was great growing up around here and feeding the local ringtails.
Why do you like the ringtail possum?
They’re just cute little things and they are so loving towards us humans and their babies. When you get to know them you realise this is a family, like any other family. When they’re eating they have their little paws up like this and look like little humans eating with their hands.
How long have seen or heard the ringtail possum?
Oh, the Carters have been around this area for a few generations and we’d always see lots of wildlife here.
Have you noticed any changes in the number of ringtail possums in your local neighbourhood?
Yes, we haven’t seen any little ringtails for a long time. Obviously people letting domestic animals near them seems to be a problem, people letting their cats out at night.
Baby Ringtail in care. Photo: Michael Mannington OAM
Peter Carter. Photo: A J Guesdon
The data collected by the NSW Department of the Environment states 50, 500 Ringtail possums have been rescued across NSW during the June 2013 to June 2021 period, the bulk of this in and around Sydney, and 12, 724 released.
In this LGA a total of 7, 118 have been rescued and 1, 978 released.
'Fallen from nest or tree' is listed as the primary cause of rescues in this area, especially during the 2017-18 and 2020 to 2021 years. Cat attacks is listed as the second primary cause of rescues and fatalities.
In 2020 to 2021 994 were rescued in this LGA and 348 released - 646 died as a result of their injuries or being thrown from their homes. Clearing habitat – the trees and underbrush they live and nest in, is what is killing these other residents - with 'abandoned/orphaned' and 'fallen from tree or nest' again listed as the primary causes during 2020-21, followed by attacks by domestic cats.
Because they are largely arboreal, common ringtail possums are particularly impacted by deforestation in Australia at an urban and rural scale. They are also heavily predated upon by the introduced red fox. They are also hit by cars, or killed by snakes, and cats and dogs in suburban areas.
Ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), referred to as 'common ringtail possums' despite them not being so common anymore, weighs between 550 and 1,100 g (19 and 39 oz) and is approximately 30–35 cm (12–14 in) cm long when grown (excluding the tail, which is roughly the same length again). It has grey or black fur with white patches behind the eyes and usually a cream-coloured belly. It has a long prehensile tail which normally displays a distinctive white tip over 25% of its length. The back feet are syndactyl, which helps it to climb. The ringtail possum's molars have sharp and pointed cusps.
Common ringtail possums live a gregarious lifestyle which centres on their communal nests, also called dreys. Ringtail possums build nests from tree branches and occasionally use tree hollows. A communal nest is made up of an adult female and an adult male, their dependant offspring and immature offspring of the previous year. A group of ringtail possums may build several dreys at different sites. Ringtail possums are territorial and will drive away any strange conspecifics from their nests. A group has a strong attachment to their site. In one experiment, in which a group was removed from their territory, it remained uncolonised for the following two years. Ringtail possum nests tend to be more common in low scrub and less common in heavily timbered areas with little under-story. Dreys contribute to the survival of the young when they are no longer carried on their mother's back.
The ringtail possum carries its young in a pouch, where it develops. Depending on the area, the mating season can take place anywhere between April and December. The majority of the young are born between May and July. The oestrous cycle of ringtail possum lasts 28 days. It is both polyoestrous and polyovular. If a female prematurely loses her litter, she can return to oestrous and produce a second litter in October as a replacement if conditions are right. The average litter is two, although there are very occasionally triplets. Common ringtail possum young tend to grow relatively slowly due to dilute milk with low lipid levels that is provided to the young. As with other marsupials, the common ringtail possum's milk changes through lactation. During the second phase of lactation, more solid foods are eaten, especially when the young first emerges from the pouch. During this time, the concentration of carbohydrates fall, while those of proteins and lipids reach their highest. The long lactation of the ringtail possums may give the young more time to learn skills in the communal nest as well as to climb and forage in the trees. The young are first able to vocalise and open their eyes between 90 and 106 days of age. They leave their mother's pouch at 120–130 days. However, lactation usually continues until 180–220 days after birth but sometimes ends by 145 days.
Avalon Beach SLSC Boat Captain, grew up in our area.
What is your favourite local wildlife species?
That would be the kookaburra.
Why do you like the kookaburra?
They come out to our backyard and sit on the clothesline and swoop down on the bugs when I’m gardening. When you’re out there shovelling dirt they’re always there looking for food. We did a big dig in the backyard last April and there was always 3 or 4 hanging around.
They’re such a nuggety solid animal, I love their colours – and they move around as a family unit, which is what we are too. Their territorial song of a morning and at f=dusk is good to – a great sound.
How long have seen or heard this animal?
I’ve seen them around here for the whole time I’ve been here.
Have you noticed any changes in the number of these animals in your local neighbourhood?
We only get ones that fly in for a feed and then out again. I haven’t seen any babies or fledglings, but I’m aware that some do have nests in the trees in our neighbourhood at North Avalon. They don’t nest around our yard, possibly because we have a couple of dogs in the yard, but I do see them moving around our streets in a group. I like them, they’re great.
There have been 22, 300 Laughing Kookaburras rescued across NSW during the June 2013 to June 2021 data period, with 8, 176 released. Collisions with motor vehicles is listed as the primary cause of rescues elsewhere.
For this LGA that data states 1, 449 have been rescued and 580 released with 1, 141 listed as needing rescuing due to an 'unknown cause'. The local rescues have escalated over recent years with 198 listed for 2020-21 alone. Further information states of the known causes for rescue 73 of these had dependent young, 24 had been attacked, 20 were rescued due to being in an 'unsuitable environment', 18 due to entanglement and 13 due to human impact - 2 had been poisoned.
The laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is a bird in the kingfisher subfamily Halcyoninae. It is a large robust kingfisher with a whitish head and a brown eye-stripe. The upperparts are mostly dark brown but there is a mottled light-blue patch on the wing coverts. The underparts are cream-white and the tail is barred with rufous and black. The plumage of the male and female birds is similar. The territorial call is a distinctive laugh that is often delivered by several birds at the same time.
Their usual habitat is open sclerophyll forest and woodland. It is more common where the understory is open and sparse or where the ground is covered with grass. Tree-holes are needed for nesting. It also occurs near wetlands and in partly cleared areas or farmland with trees along roads and fences. In urban areas it is found in parks and gardens.
Nest-building may start in August with a peak of egg-laying from September to November. If the first clutch fails, they will continue breeding into the Summer months.
The female generally lays a clutch of three semi-glossy, white, rounded eggs, at about two-day intervals. Both parents and auxiliaries incubate the eggs for 24–26 days. Hatchlings are altricial and nidicolous, fledging by day 32–40. If the food supply is not adequate, the third egg will be smaller and the third chick will also be smaller and at a disadvantage relative to its larger siblings.
Common prey include mice, which makes them susceptible to rate poisons, and similar-sized small mammals, a large variety of invertebrates (such as insects, earthworms and snails), yabbies, small fish, lizards, frogs, small birds and nestlings, and most famously, snakes. When feeding their young, adult laughing kookaburras will make “Chuck calls”, which are deep, guttural calls that differ significantly from their daily chorus songs.
Kookaburras tend to live in family units, with offspring helping the parents hunt and care for the next generation of offspring.
Careel Bay kookaburra fledglings being fed a snake. Photo: A J Guesdon
Hard To Spot, But Worth Looking Out For: 8 Surprising Tawny Frogmouth FactsLes Christidis, Southern Cross University
Tawny frogmouths are found throughout Australia, including cities and towns, and population numbers are healthy. We’re now in the breeding season – which runs from August to December – so you may have been lucky enough to see some pairs with chicks recently.
Here are eight fascinating things about tawny frogmouths that you might not know.
1. They Are Excellent Parents
Tawny frogmouths are excellent parents. Both males and females share in building the nest and incubating the eggs, generally one to three. The eggs take 30 days to hatch, with the male incubating during the day and both sexes taking turns during the night.
Once hatched, both parents are very involved in feeding the fledglings. A young bird’s wings take about 25 to 35 days to develop enough strength for flight (a process known as “fledging”).
2. They Mate For Life
Tawny frogmouths pair for life. Breeding pairs spend a great deal of time roosting together and the male often gently strokes the female with his beak. Some researchers report seeing tawny frogmouths appear to “grieve” when their partner dies.
For example, renowned bird behaviour expert Gisela Kaplan tells of rearing a male tawny frogmouth on her property then releasing it to the wild. It found a female mate and raised nestlings. One day, the female was run over on the highway; Kaplan recognised its markings.
She found the male “whimpering” on a nearby post. Kaplan reportedly said: “It sounds like a baby crying. It affects you to listen to it.” According to Kaplan, the male stayed there for four days and nights, and did not eat or drink.
3. They’re Not Owls
Although tawny frogmouths are often referred to as owls, they are not. But they do resemble owls with their large eyes, soft plumage and camouflage patterns, because both owls and frogmouths hunt at night. This phenomenon (where two species develop the same attributes, despite not being closely related) is called “convergent evolution”.
Unlike owls, tawny frogmouths do not have powerful feet and talons with which to capture prey. Instead, they prefer to catch prey with their beaks. Their soft, wide, forward-facing beaks are designed for catching insects. They will also feed on small birds, mammals and reptiles.
4. They Are Masters Of Disguise
Tawny frogmouths are extremely well camouflaged and when staying statue-still on a tree branch they appear to be part of the tree itself. They often choose to perch near a broken tree branch and thrust their head at angle, further mimicking a tree branch.
5. They Make Strange Noises
Tawny frogmouths are quite vocal at night and have a range of calls from deep grunting to soft “wooing”. When threatened, they make a loud hissing sound. Their vocalisations have also variously been described as purring, screaming and crying.
6. They Can Survive Extremes
In colder regions of Australia, tawny frogmouths are able to survive the winter months by going into torpor for a few hours. In this state, an animal slows its heart rate and metabolism and lowers its body temperature to conserve energy.
On very hot summer days tawny frogmouths will produce mucus in their mouths which cools the air they breathe in, thereby cooling their whole body.
7. They Need Old Trees
It’s not that uncommon to see tawny frogmouths dead on the road; they often flit across the road chasing insects at night and can be hit by cars.
Tawny frogmouth populations are holding relatively steady, but there is a shortage of old trees for nesting. They especially like trees with old branches as they mimic old branches and stick out like sore thumbs on young branches.
When one NSW council chopped down a suburban tree that a tawny frogmouth pair had reportedly used for years as a nesting site, one of the birds was photographed sitting on a nearby woodchipper — a poignant image.
8. They’re Not Good At Building Nests.
Tawny frogmouths are pretty slack when it comes to nest building. They simply dump twigs and leaves in a pile and that is it. Chicks and eggs have even fallen out of the nest when parents are swapping brooding duties.