Flying Kangaroos

When you think about it, in Australia, marsupials have equivalents for pretty much all kinds of mammals (or used to). There are anteater-like marsupials (Numbat), squirrel-like marsupials (Gliders), mole-like marsupials (Marsupial moles), cat-like marsupials (Quolls) and there even have been rhino-like (Nototherium) and panther-like species (Thylacoleo) (now both extinct) but there has never been a bat-like marsupial. Shame… I think it would be really cool to have a marsupial bat… Imagine a little head poking of out of a pouch of an already really cute bat…

Juvenile Spectacled Flying Fox thinking about its future life, away from an unlimited supply of fruit...
The view at sunset from O'Reilly's. If you look closely, there should be a Pademelon or two.
The one and only furry diving log, the Duck-billed Platypus. Possibly the weirdest mammal on Earth.

After visiting all those small-ish Pacific Islands, such as Viti Levu, Guadalcanal and Grande Terre, I had to start seriously increasing my species list at some point. The easiest way to do that was to go to Australia. Australia is well known to be home to a whole range of creatures capable of killing you but it’s also home to many cute and harmless creatures as well. Amongst those are marsupials and bats, on which I focused, obviously with more attention to the latter.

Australia has 80-ish species of bats. The taxonomy of a number of groups is still very much poorly understood so this number could well go up in the near future.

Most of those are present in either Queensland, Northern Territory, or both. Naturally, I decided to visit those two states. Visiting the other states, while interesting wouldn’t have left me enough time to visit each of the places I wanted to visit.

Orange Hipposideros ater inside its matching coloured cave.

In Queensland, I first spent a couple of nights in Brisbane where I met Vanessa, who’s doing a PhD on bats in culverts (check out @i_live_in_a_culvert on Instagram to learn more about her research) and Luke, from the Botanical Gardens, both keen bat watchers. My first night in Australia was bound to be a success. And indeed it was, with 8 species seen/recorded not far from Mt Coot-tha. We missed Myotis, surprisingly. In fact, bat activity had pretty much died by 9pm…

During the following 10 days, I explored Tropical North Queensland. Having been hit by a storm a few days prior to my arrival, many roads were still closed and it was raining most days, albeit not constantly. This limited my opportunities to see and record bats. On top of that, I spent the majority of those days without a detector due to a technical failure. Some of the highlights include the Tube-nosed Bat (Nyctimene robinsoni) I saw up in Cape Tribulation and the tiny cave full of Hipposideros ater at Bramston Beach (campground, the owner is a great guy. Definitely worth a visit, either for the bats or for the view from the campground. Or both). Previous reports of Orange Leaf-nosed bats are this site are wrong. Some bats are indeed orange, that doesn’t make them Orange leaf-nosed bats though, a species absent from Queensland. 

I also visited the Tolga Bat Hospital. In November 2018, a heat wave struck North Queensland, combined with the seasonal tick paralysis outbreak, it left 900 Spectacled Flying Foxes orphaned. Tolga had 700 in care when I visited. There are few words to describe the people who work there, other than heroes. If you have a chance to visit, do. If not, visit their Facebook page and maybe consider making a small donation to help their titanic work! They truly deserve it.

Juvenile Spectacled Flying Foxes enjoying their time in the aviary at Tolga Bat Hospital.
A bower of a Satin Bowerbird. Mostly plastic but the diversity of objects is incredible.
One of the things that won't kill you in Australia, a Feather-tailed Glider

After that, I flew to Darwin for a few days. I got a new detector on my second day there, having been sent a replacement unit under warranty. Great job from Wildlife Acoustics and Faunatech! Up there, I visited Litchfield National Park, Tolmer Falls in particular as they are known to be home to Ghost bats (Macroderma gigas) and Orange Leaf-nosed Bats (Rhinonicteris aurantia). I saw the former, but unfortunately not the latter. Ghost bats are carnivorous and feed on amphibians, small mammals, including bats. Orange Leaf-nosed bats are understandably not too comfortable having a hunting Ghost bat nearby…

I also visited Fogg Dam. I had been told it was good for birds and bats but also for Crocodiles! I still hadn’t seen one and I didn’t want to leave the country without seeing one… Batting was outstanding, with no fewer than eight species recorded from the dam itself. Of course, being CrocWise, I didn’t leave the safety of my car. The dam was also the hunting ground for a couple of Night Herons and a handful of Barking Owls. As for the crocs, well, I did well not to leave my car as I saw a few, none really big though.

Kiwi, my travel companion and a lovely view of Tolmer falls.
A teddy bear surprised to have been caught after escaping a child's room. AKA, Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo
Deadly stare of an appropriately named Death Adder

When I arrived in Australia, I hoped to reach 50 species on my overall list, I was then at 19. It was ambitious but doable. When I had to send my detector for repairs, that goal seemed unrealistic. However, by the time I left Darwin, I had reached that magical number! Best of all, I still had a couple of nights left in the country!

I visited Mt Glorious but didn’t get a lot of bat activity, the rain probably didn’t help. The next day, I visited O’Reilly’s. They used to run the Mammal Week there, one week where the goal was to see any many mammals as possible. So the bat fauna in the area is quite well known. Bat activity was okay but the diversity wasn’t great. I still managed to add two more species to my list, Chalinolobus morio and the Golden-tipped bat (Phoniscus papuensis).

Of course, one cannot visit Australia without looking for some of the strangest mammals on Earth. I saw 19 species of Marsupials, Kangaroos, Wallabies and Possums. The highlights were the Striped Possum in Curtain Tree Fig, the Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo at Nerada Tea Factory and the trio of gliders (Greater, Yellow-bellied and Feather-tailed) I saw with Alan. That day, up in the Tablelands, I also met John Harris. Both Alan and John are great naturalists. If you happen to be visiting either Queensland or Victoria, make sure to get in touch with them!

Leaving the very best for the very last, I had the chance to accomplish a childhood dream, seeing a Platypus.

As usual, contact me for GPS coordinates or more information on locals contacts.

Full list of bat species:

  • Mt Coot-tha: Chalinolobus gouldi, Mormopterus ridei, Saccolaimus flaviventris, Pteropus alecto, Rhinolophus megaphyllus, Austronomus australis, Miniopterus orianae.
  • Perrin Park : Pteropus poliocephalus
  • Cairns township: Chaerephon jobensis, Pteropus conspicillatus
  • Cape tribulation: Mormopterus beccarii, Chalinolobus nigrogriseus, Pteropus scapulatus, Nyctimene robinsoni
  • Bramston Beach: Hipposideros ater. Previous reports of Orange Leaf-nosed bats are inaccurate, that species is not present in Queensland. Significant colour variation among the bats in that cave, some were bright orange.
  • Tablelands: Myotis macropus (under the bridge in Yungaburra, good spot for Platypus), Nyctophilus gouldi, Vespadelus pumilus, Nyctophilus bifax, Hipposideros semoni.
  • Litchfield NP: Macroderma gigas
  • Buffalo Creek: Nyctophilus daedalus, Pipistrellus westralis, Vespadelus caurinus
  • Fogg Dam: Scotorepens sanborni, Pipistrellus adamsi, Nyctophilus walkeri, Taphozous georgianus, Taphozous kapalgensis, Nyctophilus geoffroyi, Nyctophilus arnhemensis

O’reilly’s: Chalinolobus morio, Phoniscus papuensis

 

Full list of mammal species:

  • Duck-billed Platypus Yungaburra
  • Short-beaked Echidna Julatten (dead)
  • Northern Brown Bandicoot Darwin (dead)
  • Striped Possum Curtain Tree Fig
  • Yellow-bellied Glider Tablelands
  • Lemuroid Ring-tailed Possum Tablelands
  • Northern Greater Glider Tablelands
  • Green Ring-tailed Possum Tablelands
  • Feather-tailed Glider Tablelands
  • Short-eared Brush-tailed Possum Brisbane
  • Common Brush-tailed Possum Brisbane
  • Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo Tablelands
  • Mareeba Rock-wallaby Mareeba
  • Red-legged Pademelon Tablelands and Curtain Tree Fig
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo TNQ
  • Agile Wallaby Fogg Dam
  • Common Wallaroo Chillagoe
  • Giant White-tailed Rat Tablelands
  • Red-necked Pademelon O’reilly’s
  • Whiptail Wallaby O’reilly’s (on the way back)
  • Black-striped Wallaby O’reilly’s (on the way back)
  • Common Ringtail Possum O’reilly’s

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