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They’ll soon be wearing sunnies at night

May 30, 2019

A recent blog discussed using eye-shine to find fauna (spider, frogs, mammals) at night. I have started carrying a head-torch and a camera when taking Mac the Border Collie out for his nightly walk. Recently two pinpoints of light at the base of a large Red Stringybark in the road reserve (see photo left) alerted me to the presence of a critter. It was not perturbed by our presence maybe because we were hidden by the bright light, and continued to go about its business.

It soon revealed itself to be a Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa tapoatafa) or Tuan, a shy and not often seen small, arboreal marsupial. As the name suggests it is characterised by a large tuft of hair on the end of its tail (see photo below).

Phascogales feed on invertebrates (insects, spiders, centipedes, etc) which they find by foraging around fallen logs and leaf litter. The home range of the male animal is about 100 hectares so even if they are in your area the chances of you seeing them are slight.

Phascogales are currently listed as Threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988). This is mainly due to the loss of hollow bearing trees and widespread clearing of its preferred habitat (open dry sclerophyll forest) for agriculture. This affects both the number of nesting sites and its food supply. Happily the phascogale nest-box set up on our property is currently occupied.

Our night-time walks will continue. I am sure it won’t be long before the native fauna, in an attempt to avoid detection will close their eyes as Mac and I wander past … or in the very least start wearing sunnies.

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