Wednesday 30 December 2015


Two weeks of fauna surveys undertaken recently as part of the federally funded Upper Coldstream Project at Pillar Valley, has again confirmed the high concentrations of native species that occur there.

Already more than 900 native plants, including 43 rare or threatened species, have been found, and this latest survey has brought the total number of threatened fauna recorded by the project team to 27.

As Project partners with the Nature Conservation Council, Clarence Environment Centre volunteers have been assisting highly experienced ecologists undertaking the survey, which involved the use of a variety of traps for safely capturing the animals which turned up some exciting finds.

Along with the more common Antechinus, Bush Rats, and Melomys species, were the rare New Holland Mouse, and possibly a Pale Field Rat. The latter, whose range has diminished greatly over the past century would be a significant find, should hair samples confirm its identification.

Night time call play-back and spotlighting identified Powerful Owls, Yellow-bellied and Squirrel Gliders, Brush-tailed Phascogale and Rufous Bettongs, all listed as threatened.
Also a number of microbat species were caught and identified before release, including threatened Little Bentwing, and the Eastern Long-eared Bats.

Call play-back and spotlighting begins soon after 8pm and often continues until midnight. Then, to ensure the well-being of any captured animals, all traps are checked in the early morning, before the sun heats up, so the ecologists and some of the volunteers camped on-site rather than lose another hour's sleep driving home.

It was a great learning experience for the volunteers and landowners who chose to be involved. For example, play-back of recorded calls of nocturnal species over a loud-speaker, do not always achieve the expected response. At one site, playing Yellow-bellied Glider calls failed to get any response, but playing a Powerful Owl call minutes later resulted in multiple glider calls as the animals reacted with warning calls to the perceived danger. Then a few minutes later, an ecologist spotted a Powerful Owl silently flying in to check out what it believed was an unwelcome interloper.

Another survey is planned for next year.

- John Edwards

 NOTE: The Coldstream River flows into the Clarence River between Ulmarra and Maclean.  Pillar Valley is a rural area to the east of Grafton.