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Where Light Meets Dark    
Examining the evidence for rare fauna.

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Night Stalking beginsPrintable Version

Night Stalk 1 - Oatley Park
After last week's discovery of a swamp wallaby in Oatley Park I was keen to get into the Night Stalks this year.

My first Night Stalk was through a small portion of Oatley Park this evening, lasting about 35 minutes. A friend - Allan - and I began on the main road into Oatley Park near the playing field. My intention was to go over the same ground at which I'd sighted the wallaby.

We followed pretty much the same route. The enourmous mushrooms had all but disappeared into black smudges on the ground. The first sign of life we saw was an open termite mound which was swarming with termites at the centre.

It was quite a sight, and in retrospect makes me wonder whether echidnas could yet survive in the park.

We proceded away from the upper road, following the track along a spur, shining torches into the nearby trees and shrubs, all to no avail.

Turning left we headed down to the dry gully where we found eight cockatoos roosting. I wasn't surprised as this spot was littered with chick and other feathers the other week.

We crossed the gully, using the track, and took a short detour to the lower road, shining torches along its length as far as we could see. Still no sign of life - including an eery silence.

As we headed up the hill towards the top road again I took the chance of scrambling up the sandstone rocks at about the same spot as last time. The difference this time was that there was no sight of any wallabies - or, again, any other mammal.

Towards the top of the hill we started hearing a high pitched chirping or squeaking. Unless you've heard a mouse squeak, you could be forgiving for not noticing it. This sounded very similar but was coming from the trees. It was a short squeak and they came roughly every 15 to 60 seconds. The origin could have been insect, bird or tiny mammal, but again we saw nothing.

Having finished this route so quickly (in about 20 minutes) we decided to head across the oval to loop back along the far upper road.

Not seeing the wallaby was not a huge disappointment. As the Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society speculated about the 1997 sighting, perhaps this wallaby was just visiting from outside the park. On the other hand, once the gates are locked, any wallabies would have a large piece of land to explore.

Crossing the park we saw a single bat, and then only briefly. The chirping sound came once again, but probably from trees circling the park. Once we reached the other side the squeaking persisted until the end of the walk, back at the front gate.

Night Stalk 2 - Unnamed Park
There is a tiny, unnamed park on the corner of Roberts Road and Depot Road. It always amazes me to see ibis there, searching for food in the tiny stream which trickles out of a stormwater drain only to enter another one some 40 or 50 meters away.

Despite the space being tiny, I spent 40 minutes here, primarily because I gave considerable time to examining the fauna of the stream itself.

The water comes in via a stormwater drain which services an industrially zoned area. It then exits via a second drain, across Roberts Road in under Hurstville golf course, on to the Lime Kiln Bay wetlands which are adjacent to Oatley Park.

Surely nothing could live this this polluted mess? There were electronic goods, household wastes, steak bones, clothing and other discarded paraphenalia littering the watercourse - not to mention the possibility of chemical contamination from the industrial estate.

Nevertheless, I managed to find seething masses of the tiniest wriggling worm-like creatures. They seemed to have one end buried in the substrate or attached to rock and on occassion seemed light sensitive - retracting when the torch was shined on them.

There was a single earthworm present, likely a wash-in. On one occassion I thought I saw two lightning fast, white, light-sensitive worm-like creatures retract into the substrate above the water line.

There was a single water bug or insect larvae; a black/brown, comma shaped creature flicking about in endless loops.

Perhaps most surprising was the presence of a tiny (8mm) water snail. It appeared to have a dark, shiny, or possibly translucent, thin shell.

Although it would have been fantastic to discover crayfish or shrimp living in this stream, the liklihood of that was always going to be close to nil. I saw no nesting activity on the banks either.

The final few meters of the stream reeked of sewrage. That smell was almost certainly coming back up the lower stormwater drain.

Finally I exited the gully to scan the remaining trees in the park. Whilst searching the waterway I heard two animal-like coughs. I figured the most likely culprit would be an ibis that I had missed, but the possibility of a fox or human interloper was also present.

I did catch sight of three ibis roosting in a gum tree (which looks very wierd), and despite the large wattle in full blossom and copious litter behind neighbouring properties, I didn't sight a single mammal; no fox, not even a rat or mouse.

So was the night a success? Well probably. Having found no mammal life at all is not, in itself, disappointing. This is very useful information to have. The Oatley Flora and Fauna society has written that they suspect it likely that brushtail and ringtail possums survive in the park, but to my knowledge, there has been no recent survey (and certainly the Perth Zoo has no records to date).

I do recall many years back seeing a brushtail possum in a gum tree. This was further along the peninsula, and tonight's exploration was of only a small portion of the park.

That said, the almost total silence may be an indication that cats and dogs from nearby suburban properties have already done their damage. Again, this is important to know.

The Perth Zoo recommends moonless nights for searching, and perhaps this pearl of wisom can explain tonight's results.

For today, though, I will be content to admit that we recorded nothing in one small portion of the park, whether due to our (lack of) technique, absence of animals or lighting conditions.

I do hope to search other areas of Oatley Park before the Night Stalk season ends (16 October).

And then there's Oatley Bush Park. And Lime Kiln Wetlands. And Gannon's Park. And Evatt Park. And....

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