How many ecologists does it take to check a nest box?

about  Kojonup 
on 10 Jun 2016 

Our Kojonup Reserve has once again come up with the goods. Red-tailed Phascogales have been found in abundance. The recent survey found 23 individuals and I was amazed to pull five animals out of one of the nest boxes!

Numbers have been growing steadily since their translocation to the site in 2010 and 2011. They've made use of nearly all the 61 nest boxes that are now located across the reserve.

This year we trialled a thermal imaging camera to see if we could use it to do future surveys of the animals. We'll now be able to observe the animals when they're active at night, as they show up very clearly and can be tracked as they move through their habitat. 

This year's survey was carried out using Elliott box traps and also by checking the nest boxes. A total of 20 females and three males were recorded. All the females were new animals that would have been born last year in winter. The males of this species die after mating at 11 months of age, so each year we catch new individuals.

Many of these small arboreal marsupials are found huddled in groups in their nests and we think they do this to keep warm. We provide Alpaca wool in the artificial nest boxes and this is highly prized as boxes are raided for wool, which is often supplemented by feathers, bark, leaves and sticks.

We often find large parrot feathers in the nest boxes and wonder at the way the animals must thread the feathers through a relatively small hole in the box.

As in previous years we again found ample evidence of marauding Brush-tailed Possums who left a few of our Elliott traps with teeth marks and buckled metal in their efforts to get to the peanut butter and oat bait. All this points to a very healthy reserve and we're keen to keep up the monitoring every second year to keep track of the Phascogale population.   

Our next challenge with these animals is to find out if they've moved out of the reserve into adjacent bushland and we hope to do a survey next Autumn.