SOME INTERESTING INFO FROM MEMBER HELAN

Helan spent quite a number of years in WA and learnt a lot about the WA inhabitants, human and animal.
For some reason many wildlife species have been given different names in WA. Can you guess the more common name of the following :
The BOODIE [an island survivor] is the only macropod to inhabit burrows on a regular basis. Many animals may share a complex warren. It is nocturnal and emerges after sunset to feed on tubers, bulbs, seeds, fruit and the green parts of edible plants. Wild populations of this species survive on Bernier, Dorre and Barrow islands. The Boodie has been reintroduced to Boodie Island. The disappearance of this common mammal from the mainland since colonial settlement may be linked to the arrival of the fox and cat. Status : Vulnerable.
The MARL [a miniature marvel] is one of the smallest of the bandicoots. This may be why it survives only on Bernier and Dorrie islands in Shark Bay where feral cats and foxes are absent. It is one of the rarest marsupials in Australia. At dusk it emerges from its nest to feed on seeds, roots, insects and other small animals. Status : Endangered.
The QUENDA [an urban refugee] prefers scrubby habitats with good ground cover. Solitary animals occupy a territory of several hectares. By day it sleeps in a grassy nest amongst dense vegetation. Active at night, it digs conical holes and uses a probing snout to search for worms and insects. Young animals are killed by cats. The Quenda finds refuge in the Perth Hills region as suitable habitat in the metropolitan area is lost through urban development. Status : Lower Risk [near threatened].

The WOYLIE survives in habitat that contains clumped grasses and low patchy scrub. Here it constructs a domed nest of grasses or shredded bark that it occupies by day. Loss of suitable habitat and predation by the fox are responsible for the dramatic decline of this mammal. This is the first species to be taken off a national list of Australia’s most endangered species through the efforts of a fauna recovery programme. Status : Lower Risk [conservation dependent].
The BILBY [Bilby is the common name used almost throughout all Australia, for this one, what is its real name] lives in colonies and is unique amongst others of its species for its ability to construct burrows. Active at night, the Bilby uses its acute hearing and sense of smell to locate insects, seeds and edible fruits. It is able to survive harsh desert conditions by deriving most of its water from food and by remaining in its burrow during the day. Stat : Vulnerable.

2012 AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CONFERENCE by Jenny Ovenden

In July 2012 I attended the Australian Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Conference in Townsville. Thanks for the mighty push from Brenda that got me there and enjoying the lovely companionship of Denise, Brenda and Lynne. On so many issues this conference [my first] was inspirational. The organisation, the highly motivational and informative presentations, the audio-visual aspects and the carers, etc. from all over Australia united by a common focus – the importance of conserving our unique wildlife.

 

The presenters ranged from carers, rescuers, vets, through to scientists and researchers. So much that is positive happening. Each presenter had 20 minutes to speak plus 10 minutes question time. Twelve presentations per day. Everything strictly running to time. Wow!! Transcripts of presentations were provided. This allowed us to read ahead. The venue was a large conference room at the Rydges hotel complete with circular tables each seating 8 and 4 very large screens on 3 of the 4 room walls for visual presentations. Beautifully put together visual stories set the tone for each day. The emcee was quite charismatic and introduced humour and inducement to ensure the very tight schedule was adhered to.

Recapping of each day often took place in the evening with room mates or whenever other delegates were at the same place at the same time, the opportunity to talk to other carers and people who have a passion for our wildlife was not to be missed. Approachability of participants and presenters with awe inspiring stories of battles fought on behalf of wildlife carried out by local groups – including :

the re-location of a proposed railway line to ensure preservation of vital koala habitat;

the mass rescue of kangaroos marooned on an island after sudden severe flooding;

rescue, treatment and successful release of turtles stranded in a dry lake;

surveys of areas to establish suitability of habitat as a possible release site for possums;

protection and monitoring of endangered species, eg the beautiful Mahogany Glider;

official research and fieldwork carried out to address diseases decimating some species, eg Chlamydia in koalas [a vaccine has been developed and trialled];

rescue, treatment and data collection about skin diseases in Brush-tailed possums in coastal NSW.

 

These are a few stories randomly selected –

 

Reports of the precarious position of some of our better known species, eg Koala, Tasmanian Devil, Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat and scarily, the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat and Common Wombat. Falling numbers in the Grey-headed Flying Fox and kangaroos [yes].

 

Underlying all is the threat of major habitat loss, not just for the above, but, just as seriously for the many, many, many, lesser known or even unknown species of fauna. On the second last night Brenda and I attended a meeting [open to all regarding the formation of a National Wildlife Body – an ongoing issue. It would be very interesting to find out where that move has been developed to as there were two Victorian carers very much involved.

 

At the end of conference dinner there was a most inspirational speaker John Young presenting ‘100 of My Favourite Images. John has worked on filming projects with Sir David Attenborough. This photographer has located [hopefully] the habitat of the Night Parrot [thought to be extinct], he was so excited by the prospect of obtaining photographic proof that the bird existed that he could barely contain himself during his talk and presentation. As soon as he had finished with us he was heading back to the location, his excitement knew no bounds as he excitedly and occasionally reminded us of his forthcoming adventure [isn’t it great to listen to someone talk about a great passion]. I have watched the media but am yet to see any report. Fingers crossed.

 

So many determined people achieving positive outcomes for wildlife – not just those at the conference but across Australia.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the quietly fantastic work done by those in Bendigo and surrounding districts – well done all of you.

 

If you possibly can manage to attend, the next conference will be in Hobart in 2014. Let’s do a group trip. I’m sure Denise, Brenda and Lynne will tell you we had a ball. I have the notes from the presentations, or they are available on the website if anyone is interested.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE still from Jenny

Here’s another angle to the ‘usual’ snake story.

A friend rang me because she had a problem with a large Red-bellied Black Snake in her garage and she needed a snake handler. I discovered she had obtained phone numbers for snake handlers from a lovely, helpful lady called Denise.

The problem was the snake and she had co-existed quite happily for a number of years. Very recently she had been in her garage when the snake had appeared causing her to hurriedly jump sideways – as you do. Unfortunately she fell and bumped her head. The decision was made to relocate the snake to a specially chosen site on the property and she needed someone to put it in a box, so she could safely release it in the new surroundings.

I loved the story. What a very special lady. If you have any ‘good news’ stories please write them down and send them in.

OH NO, NOT MORE BLISS – formerly known as JOY IS still from Jenny

JOY is a lovely firm pellet of possum poo from a very small baby. It’s all about the input and the output!

JOY is watching a nestling Tawny Frogmouth being ushered up a very great height to a nest very high in a gum tree. This baby had been found with its sibling and was rescued by a WRIN stalwart. First it was taken for a tour of Mandurang and had had afternoon tea at Sedgwick after falling from quite a height without his parachute. The sibling was very thin and unwell looking and was kept in care.

JOY is watching an echidna make it safely across the road.

JOY is catching sight of a ringtail possum very late one night near to where 2 were released near my home. MAYBE??

JOY is young gums I have planted flowering for the first time. BROWSE ON TAP.

JOY is NOT when a young, in care, possum races across the floor and scales your bare leg. Luckily I live more than a bulls roar from my neighbours.

 

Next time it is YOUR TURN to share those funny/special moments.

Ed. note : all attempts should be made to return non-fledged birds to their nests, it is always in the best interest of the bird to attempt to replace them rather than artificially raise for our own ego. Frogmouths are one of the species that can almost always be successfully left with parents even when an artificial nest has to be constructed close by. Of course the bird has to be checked for injuries and pronounced perfectly well then monitored for a few nights to ensure parents are still carrying out their parental duties. We have found that most of the people who call regarding the displaced bird are more than happy to either construct a nest then monitor or assist with construction then monitor, the birds often become their special projects and great pride is felt when the job has been successful. A successful artificial nest can be simple to make. First make sure the parent birds are not too far away and are curiously watching you as well as their chick. Choose a branch that is relatively high in the tree but easily accessible to the nest builders. Bird wire or other easily manipulated suitable wire can be moulded into a largish dish shaped nest which is securely attached to the branch in a position which will provide protection from direct rain or strong winds, it needs to be big enough that if the chick moves it won’t fall over the edge as it has done with mum and dads 4 stick job. The wire dish then needs to be thoroughly and thickly covered with suitable ‘bedding’. this can be sticks and thick leaf litter, enough that the wire or litter can’t become a problem for the bird. When you think the nest is good enough, place the chick in the centre, quickly back off and watch the parents from a good distance, they will rarely come to the chick during the day but need to know where it is. The new nest then must be watched to ensure the chick doesn’t wander too close to the edge and that close to or after dark the parents will accept the new situation and feed their baby. This monitoring sometimes needs to continue for several nights.

THE THINGS WE DO Ed.

I was talking to my daughter some time ago while we were both visiting my 91 year old dad at his nursing home. Jo mentioned she had been unable to use the Mercedes for some time, instantly I thought back to the time when the ‘people mover’ had just been purchased and Jo had pulled into the petrol station to fill up, she automatically got the petrol hose and began to fill up. Luckily, before too much petrol had flowed through the hose, she remembered this vehicle needed diesel to keep it running. Thankfully, all that was needed was for the petrol to be siphoned out and then the tank flushed clean. I wondered what might have happened on this occasion but before I could pose the question she laughed and said nothing’s wrong, just pardalotes are nesting in the muffler and I have to wait until they all come out. She finished with a chuckle and said “I’ll probably blow the thing up when I start it as it will be blocked with all sorts of nesting material.”

 

This isn’t the first time Jo has had to re-organise her garage during nesting season as a few years ago willie wagtails nested on the handlebars of husband Gregs bike, so for several weeks Greg had to train using Jo’s triathlon/long distance bike and she wasn’t really amused. Son Steve is also a bit of a softy at times, years ago he decided to move a pile of dirt and before much had been moved from the pile, he realised he’d dug straight into a nest – yes, pardalotes once again. After a quick phone call we decided to try a terra-cotta plant pot on its side jammed into the hole with part of the top [now the side] of the pot covered then the pot covered over with dirt with the babies placed into the pot. Luckily it was another success.

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BARKING OWLS’ by Garry

The Barking Owl is an aggressive hunter taking a wide range of prey. As  they hunt earlier in the evening and later in the morning than any other Australian owl  species,  their  diet  includes a wider range  of  diurnal  birds.  Prey recorded includes House Sparrow, White Winged Chough, Kookaburra, Magpie-lark, Magpie, Red-rumped Parrot and Tawny Frogmouth. Mammals such as small possums, bats  and  gliders are also taken but the introduced rabbit is now  the  major source  of food in southern Australia. As with other Ninox Owls  [hawk  owls] they  also take insects such as beetles and crickets particularly in the  non-breeding season.

 

Barking  Owls’  nest in a large hollow in the trunk or large limb  of  a  tree. Dead  hollow  spouts are also used, the nest may be up to 30metres  above  the ground  but  is  usually  much lower. No nest is made,  the  eggs  being  laid directly onto the floor of the hollow.

 

There  are usually 2 or 3 eggs that, as with most hollow nesting species,  are white. Incubation takes about 35 days and the fledglings leave the nest about 35  days later still being downy as are all other young members of  the  Genus Ninox although none are still showing as much down as the Barking Owl.

 

The  size  of  a Barking Owl can vary between 35cm and  45cm  and  the  wingspan between 85cm and 100cm. The colour of the head varies from dark to light  sandy brown,  the  upper  wings and back are brown with large white  spots  and  the uppertail is inconspicuously barred brown; breast and belly are white  heavily streaked  brown;  eyes are large with a large yellow iris. The large  yellow eyes and large white spots on the upper surface are usually enough to identify this species,  but,  if  the  dog-like  call  is  heard  this  would  confirm identification.  This species is also responsible for the  ‘screaming  woman’ call. it is described as being very much  like  a terrified woman and quite capable of making your hair stand on end on a  dark night if you’re out by yourself.

 

The Barking Owl is a species that, in Victoria, is  considered  to  be endangered.  There are only a small number of known breeding pairs mainly restricted to  the  dryer  forests of Central Victoria. Severe bushfires over the last few years have burnt many of the large hollow bearing trees used by the Barking Owl as well as other species, the fires have also reduced the availability of food. After the fires the owls were seen coming back to their territories in burnt areas, the loss of their habitat as well as food meant they did not stay.

 

Ideal  habitat is open country with a choice of large trees for  roosting  and nesting.  In  Northern  Australia  where this  species  is  more  common  the favoured habitat is paperbark swamps; in southern districts it chooses creeks and rivers that are lined with River Red Gums, isolated stands of large  trees and  open  woodland. In Victoria much of its preferred habitat would  now  be confined  to  private property or creeks and rivers  running  through  private property.

 

My  first encounter with this species was in October, 1982, when Brenda and  I travelled from Melbourne to Chiltern especially to see them. I had been given a detailed map by a friend that showed me exactly where to look for the birds. We spent 3 days bird watching in the area seeing a total of 125 species. A  trip  one night to the area marked on my map added the Barking Owl  to  the list  of  birds  we had seen. At first the birds’  were  heard  calling  their unmistakable  dog-like double bark ‘wuf-wuf’ or ‘wuk-wuk’. After hearing  the call  I  could understand why they are known as Barking Owls, the  call  being remarkably like a barking dog. Later  that  evening we were to see the pair in the spotlight.  Unlike  their smaller  cousin  the Boobook Owl, whose mopoke call may go on for  hours,  the Barking Owl call usually only lasts several minutes at a time making it  much harder to locate.

 

My  encounters with these owls have been mostly very few, my second  sighting  11 years later when in 1993 I found a single bird roosting in a River Red Gum  at Laanecoorie  Reservoir not far from home.  Four  years  later  in  February  1997  whilst spotlighting  for  mammals and nocturnal birds in open  forest  of  Broad-leaf Peppermint,  Manna  Gum  and Blue Gum near Bogong  village  in north  eastern Victoria, I had good views of a single bird for a few minutes then three weeks later  Brenda received an injured bird from Baringhup making a total of  5  birds seen in over 40 years of bird watching.

 

In 2010 and 2011 I took part in a survey to assess the population of owls and arboreal mammals after severe bushfires in the Goulburn Broken Catchment area. Recorded calls of the owls’ were played at night at approximately 50 sites covering a large area east of Kilmore and extending almost to Jamieson, as high as Alexandra and a little further south than Healesville. Surveys of the areas had also taken place in 1996. The Barking Owl was not found on any site during the 2010 and 2011 surveys. Two other Ninox owls were recorded on some sites, they were Southern Boobook and Powerful Owl. Two Tyto owl species were also recorded on some sites, they were Sooty Owl and Masked Owl. The Masked Owl record is of calling only and on a single occasion. Tawny Frogmouths and Owlet Nightjars were also recorded.

 

Arboreal mammals seen were Mountain Brushtail Possum which showed a decline over the 3 surveys particularly on the burnt areas; Common Brushtail Possum; Common Ringtail Possum which has shown a steep decline over the 3 survey periods on both burnt and unburnt areas; Leadbeater’s Possum [a single record of call only]; Greater Glider, according to the previous surveys, this species has suffered a steep decline since 1996, especially on burnt sites; Sugar Glider, the trend for this small glider appears to be a small increase over the survey periods; Yellow-bellied Glider, there were few sightings of this species on any of the three surveys but it appears to have had a very slight increase on burnt sites but little change on unburnt sites; Feathertail Glider, this tiny glider was not recorded on any sites during any of the 3 survey periods, it was seen off-site in unburnt forest on one occasion in 2010; Koala, all records of this species during all surveys was in unburnt areas only.

 

Other mammals recorded on sites were species of micro bats; Black Wallaby; Common Wombat; Cat; European Rabbit and Sambar Deer. A number of frog species were also recorded including Brown Toadlet [endangered] and Dendy’s Toadlet [data deficient] found 10kms farther west than previously recorded.

THE EYES HAVE IT by Brenda

Close to midnight on Friday 5th October, 2012, the phone rang. “We’ve just picked up a joey, mum was dead on the road.” The usual questions including how big is the joey, does it have fur, is it warm/cold, do you think mum has been dead long? The answers were, the joey is getting fur, it is warm and mum is still warm.

The caller and her very angry mother had brought in a 3.9kg male joey a little after 5pm two months earlier, mum had been shot but not killed. The joey had been found about 4.30pm in the afternoon the day after the previous nights shooting spree along with the bodies of several other dead animals, some of which also had pouch joeys. It appeared from the markings around the bodies, most had not died for some time, some had died well away from the killing zone. All but one of the pouch joeys had already died. This joey was tiny, icy cold and moribund and died shortly after arrival. Time of the shootings was known as the caller had gone to a nearby house to check if anyone had any information.

The finder and her mother had spent considerable time with us talking about wildlife and its required care on their first visit so, after some discussion, it was decided the caller could cope with this new joey until the following morning when she had to be in Maryborough just after 6.30am for work. Detailed instructions were given but only about one and a half hours had passed before the phone rang again to say the joey wouldn’t settle, it was constantly calling and never remained still. All processes discussed had been followed and I explained what was happening was often normal with new joeys but the caller asked if she could bring it out straight away instead of waiting till early morning, she refused Garry’s offer of meeting part way saying she was more than happy to drive it the full distance. By the time she arrived about an hour later everything was prepared including a variety of pouches warming in the heated hanging pouch, all had been weighed so it would be a simple matter to place the joey in the most appropriate pouch and set it on the scales without having to waste time. The joey weighed 638gm and a magnifier must have been used to find the fur which could not be felt but the normal shiny pink skin of ‘pinkies’ was just turning to the much paler, non shiny, hue which means fur isn’t too far away. The joey was placed into the warmed pouch and very quickly settled and slept. Of course by the time the finder left it wasn’t too many hours to normal get up time so I decided not to go back to bed. And, it was the day of the October WRIN meeting and I’d be missing out again.

Things went really well for 2 or 3 weeks then one morning I noticed the joey had a tiny dot of muck in the corner of her left eye. Looked like the start of conjunctivitis so after some consideration decided to begin treatment for this condition. I called my vet as soon as I knew the clinic would be open but the answering machine prompted my memory that it was a holiday. Later I contacted the vet at home and explained the situation where the conjunctivitis was confirmed as the probable problem an to continue with the medication being used.

Two days later there was no improvement, now both eyes were looking sore and the left eye looked swollen so a visit to the clinic was made. Several tests were done and nothing unusual found, it was decided to change the medication to a combination of 2 other antibiotics, one a stronger medication, to be used alternately 4 times a day and also to put the joey onto oral antibiotics as an added precaution. The eyes appeared marginally dry. The eye swelling was soft tissue around the eye and not the eye ball protruding which may have indicated a problem behind the eye. Another couple of days and the problem was still not improving. By this time the joeys eyes were partly closed and she was clearly distressed, no doubt more by the regularity and timing of the medication rather than pain as she was also being given pain relief. After considerable thought I made the decision to alter the medication prior to contacting the clinic as, again, it was after hours. Overnight the eyes appeared to improve a little, they seemed to be more shiny and more open. Again I spoke to the vet and reminded him of a joey from many years earlier who had arrived with eye problems, after several medications had been tried she had eventually been put onto a much stronger antibiotic as a last resort when nothing else worked. I remember my vet saying at the time it is very expensive and a final resort. It had worked so I requested the same medication again. My vet suggested one more treatment before beginning the treatment I requested as he had discussed the case with a colleague. After 2-3 days of the new medication I gave up and once more began using the medication I had used on her twice before after no difference had been seen using the other antibiotics.

The following morning the eyes appeared to be a little wider open. I called the clinic and arranged for a vet to come to see the joey and bring the medication I had requested which had been ordered and arrived the previous evening. On arrival, the eyes were again tested with nothing specific found although they were not producing the normal amount of tears, surprisingly the swollen eye was working better than the normal sized right eye. There was still no sign of damage to the eyeballs. The new medication was started straight away, as it was only a twice daily medication I would be able to alter the entire medication/feeding regime which hopefully would ease the joeys stress each feed time – she would eagerly take her bottle, sit well for stimulating but then begin to throw her hands out trying to keep me from going near her face. The new medication would be needed for a period of 2 – 3 weeks, it may cause irritation and if so would have to stop immediately and probably call it quits on this beautiful little animal although we could once again go back to the medications already tried for a final time, my criteria would be had I caused enough stress already.

At the time of writing this [5th Dec 2012] we are into her last chance of a successful outcome. She now weighs in at 1234gm, a disappointing gain as it is a little less than what would be the norm with a strong healthy joey, no doubt due to some stress occurring because of having to have the eyes treated so often. The use of pain relief took away the physical discomfort and organising the feeding and treatments in particular ways avoided much of the psychological worries, at least that was my hope. Surprisingly during her first 3 days in care she had lost 53gms, this was rapidly regained and by the end of her 7th day had regained those lost grams and added 35gm more for a total gain of 88gm over 7 days. Fingers are firmly crossed that at her next eye test we will see success.

December 28th. The best news is the treatment worked. After several days of the new antibiotic the vet checked and suggested I stop using it as her eyes were mostly closed and she seemed distressed when she thought her face was to be touched. I decided not to follow this advice, I had dealt with this joeys problem for a long time and considered her demeanour was more likely to be psychological than physical and a few more days were well worth trying.

January She now has beautiful wide open shiny eyes and loves nothing more than exploring around the lounge and kitchen and, despite being the youngest, is most often the last back to bed after a feed. It is thought her eye problems possibly began with a bacterial infection behind the eyes perhaps the first sign of this was the 53gm weight loss on her first days after arrival. It may have been caused by dust, dirt, grit, etc getting under the eye lids while still in her dead mums pouch. On 14th January she weighed in at 1854gm, an appropriate weight for her age estimated at around 7.5 months. She is a glorious animal. But, aren’t they all!

 

UNLESS YOU ARE TOTALLY FAMILIAR WITH EYE PROBLEMS AND TREATMENTS IT IS VITAL THAT NOTHING OTHER THAN SALINE OR STERILE WATER IS PUT INTO THE EYES OF ANY SPECIES WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF A VET OR TRAINED PERSON. IF YOU USE THE WRONG TREATMENT YOU MAY CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE WHICH WILL MEAN DEATH FOR SOMETHING THAT MAY OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN SIMPLY AND SUCCESSFULLY TREATED. THE SAME APPLIES TO ANY MEDICATIONS OFFERED WHEN THE PROBLEM HAS NOT BEEN DIAGNOSED.

WHEN TO BURN…. IF YOU MUST

Garry and I often receive calls regarding burning off on public or private land. The Government department responsible for conducting ‘controlled’ burns will carry on regardless of concerns of the public. However, if given the chance to offer suggestions to Government departments or private individuals who may wish to conduct burns on their land, the following may be suggested – but don’t expect miracles.

Burn areas with a dense under-storey during the cooler months when birds, or other species, won’t be breeding. If spring burning needs/has to be done, preference is to burn areas that have little under-storey. Please check the area for nests prior to burning.

Burn areas in small blocks, ie in a mosaic pattern, this will retain habitat for species present.

Cool burns are preferred, they will do less damage to wildlife and will almost always leave some habitat, eg grass tussocks, leaf litter, etc which small animals such as lizards and invertebrates can shelter in.

Raking around hollow stumps, coppice growth, hollow logs, etc before burning will help retain habitat for species present in the area. Some voluntary help eg scouts, locals interested in their forests and various other groups may be available to help with raking if enough warning is given.

Leave corridors.

Remember, some ‘controlled’ burns end up uncontrolled.

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