In Search of a Numbat

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Oceania » Australia
August 12th 2018
Published: August 13th 2018
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The top target for my one full day in Dryandra was of course to find a Numbat which is the top mammal target from here. They are active during the warmest part of the day and patrol a very large 50 hectare home range looking for termites so the way to try and find them is to cover as much ground as possible in the heat of the day.

There wasn't much heat in the morning at least though as the ground was covered in frost with kangaroos hopping over a frosty lawn. It did warm up a bit though later in the day and apparently peak Numbat activity is from 10-4. In the morning we did a trail where numbats are occasionally seen and the relatives who I'm travelling with in dryandra saw a Numbat about 15 years ago, and although there were lots of cool birds, nice scenery, and plenty of dead logs and termite mounds, no numbats were seen. There was an old Malleefowl mound here too, although probably long abandoned by the bird, and Dryandra is a place where they can be found but are tricky to see and are almost as tricky as the numbats.

We then did what the Barna Mia guide suggested as the best chance at numbats which was the Darwinia Drive Trail which is a driving route that covers a large area of the woodland passing through numbat habitat and driving slowly around is the best chance to see a numbat run across the road or be foraging on the side of the road since you can cover much more ground in a car. This is important because of the 50 ha home range of a numbat. There's still a heck of a lot of chance involved in finding a Numbat though, and although I seem to be quite lucky with wildlife a lot of the time, I wasn't on this occasion. There was lots of other cool stuff around too like fairy-wrens, a huge Wedge-tailed Eagle perched over a dead kangroo and lots of Jacky Winters doing their characteristic tail-wagging all along the fence line that separates Dryandra Woodland from the neighbouring farmland. Dryandra Woodland is a relatively small patch of remnant woodland in the Western Australian Wheatbelt where most of the land has been cleared for agriculture. Surprisingly, there were no echidnas seen all day either, unlike yesterday where there were a few about.

After lunch, I walked around the woodlands near the village again and as well as the cool birds that I had seen already like Rufous Treecrepers and Yellow Robins, found a White-browed Babbler which is a very cool bird that is apparently becoming more difficult to find in Dryandra than in the past. I found an echidna in the late afternoon too. I'm surprised I hadn't seen one earlier until this one waddling along in that distinctive way as echidnas are wont to do.

After dinner, went for a bit of spotlighting of course doing a trail from the Old Mill Dam as well as doing more of the Lol Gray Trail a bit later. The trail from the Old Mill Dam was interesting because it was designed as a night walk as a loop with reflective patches on signs and on the trees on the way around so that you could easily follow it by torchlight. Prior to the Dryandra population crash, I believe Brush-tailed Bettongs were commonly seen, but they aren't any more and I didn't see any. I did, however see lots of roos, some Brushtail Possums, and near the car park by the side of the road was a Boobook Owl, one of two seen, which is very nice because it moves the species from the heard-only category of the trip list onto the list proper. Counting off the top of my head, that's the eighth owl species seen on the trip with a few more heard (+ two frogmouths seen and two more heard). Not bad for a taxon that doesn't exist.

On the Lol Gray Trail at night, as well as possums and roos and being freaked out by something that so sounded like a bipedal-walk that seemed like it could only be a human or yeti or bigfoot (the two things I hate meeting at night are humans and domestic dogs. Bigfoot or yetis are ok, just not dogs), there were a couple of interesting sightings over a few hours. There was a probably phascogale that ran off too quickly to be certain, but I'm quite sure this was a phascogale after having had the brief view yesterday. There was also what seemed to be a Southern Brown Bandicoot running off. Considering how easily they are found in the Perth suburbs, I'm surprised that I haven't really seen any apart from a probably flash of one. I also found lots of flowering plants that looked very promising for Western Pygmy Possum and Honey Possum but was unsuccessful with both. There were a few bats around too, which I wasn't expecting given none seen yesterday. One bat that I could actually identify was a Freetail bat that wasn't White-striped so must be South-Western. The haunting call of the Bush Stone-curlew continued throughout the night too, although common on the East Coast, I have never seen them and only today and last night heard them on the West.

We had to leave reasonably early the next morning because I was getting my flight to Singapore the same evening. There were no particularly interesting or different sightings on the drive out, no numbat running across the road or anything. So I didn’t find the numbat, nor did I find a malleefowl or pygmy-possums, but I saw the vast of majority of species I was looking for so I’m extremely pleased with that and I got a lot of lifers.

On return to Perth, I had a few hours for lunch and to pack my stuff for the rest of the trip. I also sent off a box of stuff by sea post to go back to Poland so that I wouldn’t have to carry it. I sent 7.5kgs of stuff including warm clothes that I wouldn’t need anymore, field guides for regions that I was now done with (Australia and Borneo) and a fair amount of stuff that I had with me in Malaysia but now having done that travel realise aren’t actually completely essential and aren’t worth carrying. So I’ve got quite a bit less stuff now which is good.

My flight to Singapore leaves this evening so I’ll have to start getting ready to go to the airport shortly. Of course I land at an annoyingly late time which I’d really rather not do, but there’s nothing that I can do to help that, that’s when the cheap flight was. I’ll probably get to my accommodation around 1AM but that can’t be helped.

New birds:

Variegated Fairy-wren

Baillon’s Crake

Western Rosella


Baudin’s Black Cockatoo

White-backed Swallow

Western Corella

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater

Inland Thornbill

White-eared Honeyeater

Blue-breasted Fairy-wren

Rufous Treecreeper

Purple-crowned Lorikeet

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater

Jacky Winter

Varied Sittella

Brush Bronzewing

White-browed Babbler

Pallid Cuckoo

Southern Boobook


Brush-tailed Bettong

Red-tailed Phascogale

Western Quoll

South-western Freetail Bat


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