On a recent tour I led through north-west Arnhem Land one of my guests stumbled upon five small fluffy tales scattered beneath a tall Darwin woolybutt tree, Eucalyptus miniata at Cobourg Coastal Camp in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park. After inspecting the site, sharing ideas and putting two and two together the pieces of the puzzle all started to align. It was becoming very likely what we were looking at were the remains or left overs of our resident barking owls late night feasts.
Nestled in the savannah woodlands beside the ocean is our (Venture North Australia) small nature based eco-camp. The small pocket of bushland encompassing the coastal camp has not been subject to controlled or wild fires for over 10years, leaving the area rich in leaf matter and fallen hollow logs, important habitation for small marsupials. Over this period the area has seen a significant population increase of northern bandicoots, brush tail rabbit rats, black footed tree rats and sugar gliders in particular.
It did come as a shock to identify the tales (and one carcass) as our native sugar glider although it didn't come as any surprise as to what was predating on these cute, cuddly creatures after recognizing several white bird droppings speckled throughout the scene
There has been two 'very territorial' resident barking owls patrolling the area over the past six months, these have often been identified after witnessing their distinct dog-like call. Closely resembling the call of a small dog, the 'woof woof' territorial vocalisation has often been heard from the tree tops above the gliders remains. Barking owls have a very varied diet, from small marsupial mice to medium sized bats, sugar gliders being one of their favorites.
The Darwin woolybutt above the remains.
The same Darwin woolybutt tree at night- note the red eyes and silhouette of our hungry resident.
The good news is, the findings are a solid indicator that the population of sugar gliders in the area remain strong, therefore providing guests with a rare opportunity to witness these spectacular nocturnal creatures in their natural environment.
Article by Hugh Gange