Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Platypus video

June 5, 2017

Platypus video taken at our visit to Platypus House in Beauty Point, Tasmania.


Pygmy Possum

February 21, 2017
Josiah rescued a baby “little pygmy possum” from the bath yesterday.  (Our bathroom is off the open verandah so it is not surprising to find tiny lizards and stray birds in there – we have even had a brush tail possum and a spotted tail quoll before!).  The baby was cold and tired and rather desperate for food.  It had been seen for a couple of days around the place and we had assumed it was a baby mouse, but when we looked at it up close it had a different face and it curled its tail into a coil.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
For the first night we fed it some glucose water and fruit and set it up in an aquarium with a heat lamp and some fresh banksia flowers that I hunted up.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
After that we did some research and provided a diet which includes special honeyeater and insectivore mixture, fresh plants to climb and flowers to investigate along with bugs found in the wood stacks, bits of rotting wood to dig into and some meal worms too.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
It is so cute and so tiny!  It weighs a minuscule 3.5gm and likes nothing better than to wrap itself around Josiah’s finger and fall asleep – I guess it would have been used to holding on to it’s mums back like that.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
Addendum 17/3/17
After another couple of days we found yet another little one stranded in the bath.  A third one, noticeably smaller than these two, was found running in circles on the bathroom floor – but sadly that one died soon after we found it.
Our best guess is that they were all in a nest waiting for Mum to bring them food, too big at this stage to be in the pouch or holding on to Mum’s back wherever she went.  Then perhaps Mum fell prey to a kookaburra, butcher bird or snake and after a while they had to to venture out to look for food on their own.  Being too young they were not doing well, and some exceptionally cold nights made them slow and hungry.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
They pretty quickly learned to lap their food and are now self feeding and their instincts are getting pretty good so we are trying not to handle them much anymore.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
We set up a large 4ft long reptile aquarium as a natural environment and they have been thriving so far and are very active at dusk and early evening.  I have received advice from some carers through the department of wildlife and hope to release them into the back yard soon.  At the time of writing they have increased their weight to 9gm.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
I am trying to get them solely on natural food now and have made a nesting box which they sleep in, curled up in a beanie.  I have to replace the beanie with natural bedding too!  That box will be mounted on a tree when they are released so that they can explore their new area whilst still having a familiar and safe place to return to.  I hope that will give them a better chance of survival in the dangerous outside world.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
Addendum 28/3/17
Well, the pygmy possums reached the required weight of 12gm on 23rd March.  I took the small nesting box they had been sleeping in and mounted it onto a tree trunk behind the house.  I thought it would be good if they could spend a few days at least with a familiar home base to come and go from, plus I could leave some meal worms or other food around nearby for the first week or so.  I chose a spot that had some bushes around it so that there would be plenty of sticks to climb and different bush types for them to explore.  I faced the box away from the prevailing winds and made sure the door was close to the trunk and some small twigs to make it easy for them to get in and out unnoticed.
I released them into the house just before dusk and left them to it – and I haven’t seen them since.  I checked the box but they have not returned to it at all, and they have not eaten any of the food I left out.  With all the predators around – kookaburras, tawny frogmouths, butcher birds, snakes etc – I guess it is very likely that they quickly became a juicy meal for something.  However, on the other hand, I had never seen any pygmy possums around before these little guys so it is just possible that they are still out there meeting up with some others of their species and finding nesting places of their own.  It was hard to let them go, knowing they were safe and sound with us, but it is illegal to keep them – and we did want them to find mates and breed up in the wild.  We believe that they were both females so maybe one day one will return to bring up some joeys of her own in the box.  I’ll leave it there just in case.

Getting a Few Things Done

January 14, 2017

We have had a few things happening since I wrote last September that I thought I would share.  The most important has been the fact that we finally became fully off grid last Spring.  We had a couple of weeks of ‘heads up’ before the power pole was disconnected and cut down and we were on our own!  We scrambled to mount and wire up more solar panels on the roof ready to be connected.  Our little roof is now crammed with solar panels!  There are 3kW of solar panels at the house and 1kW at the caravan with another 1kW awaiting connection there.

House with 3KW Solar Panels and 24V Batteries
We struck a problem when the new deep cycle batteries we had ordered did not arrive as promised, so we had to rely pretty heavily on the generator for a couple of weeks.  Finally, after being messed around way way too much, we cancelled our battery order and bought a second hand, but very good, 36V forklift battery pack.  We pulled all the individual batteries out and set up a 24 volt set at the main building and joined the remaining 12 volts with our old 12 volt set to create another 24 volt system over at the caravan.  These batteries have actually worked out better for us than the ones we had been going to use as we got more storage capacity. The batteries are very heavy, so we moved the old ones using the tractor. 
We were able to change from our original 12V plans to two 24V system because we managed to pick up a brilliantly priced secondhand 24V 3000W Latronics inverter for the house and a 1800W one for the caravan.  A bunch of GSL MPPT controllers manage the solar panels.  Both Latronics and GSL are Australian brands and seem very good.  It is all working well so far, though Winter will definitely challenge us, but we do have the generator for just such moments.  Kim has plans to buy a Victron 24V 100A charger which we can use to charge the batteries from the generator, which should help too.  It is all a bit of a learning curve having to be careful with the use of the power at times, but Kim bought some Victron battery monitors that are a real help for monitoring how the systems are going.  It is rather nice having the two separate systems as we can draw power from either or both of them, which gives us the option of resting one if it’s battery power is getting low.  There is still more work to do before Kim will be happy with it all, but the house system is almost done and the caravan system is working, though Kim wants to move and modify the inside wiring somewhat.
We want to put in a micro hydro system as well and now have plans for the water pickup spot for that, and even a man with machinery lined up to do the work, but that is still a job that must wait for the future.  Meanwhile it is nice it think we will never have another bill from Aurora Energy!
You may have heard that my lovely Mum gave us all a fright last year when she became very unwell.  We thought she might have had a stroke as she had developed neurological symptoms, but it turned out to be caused by high calcium levels in the blood.  After a few weeks in hospital she returned home much improved, though still weak.  My sister from America, Linda, was able to travel over and stay with Dad and Mum for a few weeks and help them out during this period, which was a real blessing.  The folks are back on their own again now and are managing fine, though my other sister, Alison, is keeping a close eye on them.  
I managed to get a picture of Kim with our current fleet of cars.  We have gone very French with one peugeot, two citroens and the VW caravelle van.  We still have the VW beetle too but it does not get used very much.  Kim does all the maintenance and repairs which consumes a fair bit of his time.  In the last few months he has had to deal with a broken windscreen, a chipped windscreen, re-gassing an air conditioner, fitting an air flow meter, replacing an alternator, replacing a starter motor and replacing a fan control circuit as well as oil, filter and tyre changes.  With all the travelling for Lydia’s work and other things we do an awful lot of kilometres!
Lydia recently had local man do some clearing so she could have a nice level area to ride her pony on.  Rod spent two days in his little excavator pushing down trees, cutting off the tops and roots and putting them onto a burning pile.  He also dug out some large stumps and buried them, then roughly levelled the whole area.  He did a great job and having all the branches, roots and scrub burnt at the same time was a bonus I was not expecting.
We dragged all the logs away and lined them up to make it easy to cut them into rounds and split the rounds into firewood.  Another bonus of the job.  Sadly the tractor blew a tyre in the process, rather terminally – another repair job for Kim to add to his list!
The area cleared is about  25m wide and 42m long.  Lyd finds it good to ride on with plenty of room for circles and jumps etc.  There are a few small roots and things sticking up but they don’t seem to bother the pony at all.
We have set up a small soccer goal at one end for the boys to use (if they ever get a few minutes when they feel up to it!), so they can enjoy it too.
Immediately after the new year we had my sister Linda and most of her family come to visit after spending Christmas in Perth with our folks.  They did a bunch of touring around and we tagged along as best we could.  In this photo we were doing the Dove Lake circuit at Cradle Mountain. It was really lovely to spend some time with them all and the time passed all too soon.
In order to accomodate an extra 5 people I had decided we needed to get busy working on the old bus, so we towed it up close to the house with the tractor, which was fun in a hair raising kind of way.  It was actually quite uneventful to get it roughly to the spot we had planned, but trying to get it sitting exactly where I wanted was rather a challenge with no brakes to speak of in a 6 tonne bus.  There was only so much control that the tractor had with just a bar between them and when the bus started to roll down the slope past the tractor I confess I was a bit concerned, and Sam and Josiah, who had been watching from the trampoline in front of us, sensibly took off.  It might have been my shriek that made them do that!  LOL.  The bus did stop okay though and we managed to back it up again and decided that it really didn’t have to be exactly where I had planned – close enough was good enough after all.  🙂
Then we did some scrubbing and re-flooring and general prettying up.  We did not have the time or funds to line the walls properly but managed to pick up some wallpaper at a charity and temporarily covered up the walls with that and made some curtains to keep out the 5am morning light.  Then we jury rigged some fly screens to the large gaping side and front windows and made some drop down blinds from greenhouse plastic.
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
Finally we moved some beds into the main room, made a custom fitted narrow bed for the back room (the old smoking compartment), ran a power cable across and it was ready.  The reports were that it worked well, and since the visitors left our family have been using it quite a bit just to hang out in.  The large open windows make it quite airy and pleasant in the late afternoon/evening of a warm day.  It still does leak in a heavy rain though, so we need to do more riveting on one of the sides.  Ultimately we hope to install proper windows on the side and front and some floor coverings would be nice too.  One day…..
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
We have also just had some hay baled.  We do not have enough grass to do it on our own property, but a friend of a friend has some pasture land with no animals to feed on it.  He had been just slashing it down but last year he offered it to us to make hay, since hay was so very scarce, and we were keen to have it.  We only got 3 rolls of hay last year with the bad conditions after the drought so we had no idea what to expect this year.  It was a pleasant surprise to get 16 rolls.
Then we had the challenge of getting them all home.  Last year we used a hand winch to pull a bale up some car ramps and onto our small trailer. Then we tied the bale down and drove it home.  That was okay for just a few bales, but 16 was going to be an awful drain on our time and the hand winch is not easy to use.  A more polished plan was needed.  In the end we borrowed a friend’s large trailer which has high sides and proper loading ramps and we set up an electric winch on it which could be run from a spare battery in the back of the van.  We can now winch the bales in with a minimum of effort, and it was great to find that the trailer fitted 2 rolls per trip.  It is much easier to find time to do 8 trips rather than 16, especially since we still have all the running back and forth to Lydia’s work to fit in.  So far we have moved half of the rolls home before being interrupted by 23mm of rain.  Now we are waiting for the paddocks to dry a bit before getting the rest as the caravelle’s traction on hills of wet grass would be a bit challenged, especially towing such a heavy load!
Meanwhile I have tomatoes, cucumber and corn coming up well in this year’s vegetable cages, and more corn planted at Paul’s place.
We may have mentioned before that we need cages to protect the plants from cute fiends like this possum!
Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus Vulpecula)
Pademelons are happy to eat their share too of course.
Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus)
The cold frame worked well for raising my tomato, cucumber and corn seeds to a good size in time for planting.  Hopefully the warm weather will last long enough this year to get plenty of produce ripened – but over here you just never know.
Kim has done some wheeling and dealing on the second hand market to upgrade his camera again.  He now has to learn how to to get the best out of his new camera.  Also the programme that he uses to store and edit his photos is no longer supported and he has had to change to a different one, which is being even more of a steep learning curve to learn how to use.  However he still manages to get some great shots in my opinion.  Just the other day the insects were busy at Nawawntapu National Park near Lydia’s work and he got some lovely shots of a butterfly
Yellow Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa itea) on white flowers feeding
 and dragonfly.
This coming week the pastor’s wife and I are organising a Kids Craft Day at the church.  The main crafts will be jewellery making for various ages, cactus planting in cups and an adaption of marshmallow shooters that I am calling Sheep Shooters, as well as general paper craft and play doh.  It is the first time we have done anything like this and we have no idea at all how many children will turn up.  It will be interesting to see.  🙂
Well, I think that is most of our news for now.  Best wishes to you.