ACT Wildlife – A visit to Mulligans Flat

Last weekend was a long weekend, and I went to Canberra to visit some friends (for non-Australians: Canberra is Australia’s capital city and is located in the Australian Capital Territory, usually referred to as the ACT). On my way home I stopped for a short visit at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.

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Mulligans Flat, like the adjacent Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, is a lovely remnant area of Box Gum Grassy Woodland. Box Gum Grassy Woodland (or to give it its full title:  White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland – often just referred to as BGGW because no-one wants to say all that) is a specific ecological community that is listed as Critically Endangered; it used to exist on all the best country in south-eastern Australia and has therefore been cleared for farming and housing to within an inch of its life. I did not start this blog post intending to get preachy about BGGW, but I spent three years working as a public education and community engagement officer on a BGGW conservation project, so I tend to get a bit carried away when it gets mentioned. Sorry about that, but now you’ve learned something new.

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Box Gum Grassy Woodland at Mulligans Flat

In addition to being a lovely example of an endangered woodland community, Mulligans Flat is also actively managed as a feral pest-free zone, with great efforts made to exclude and eliminate rabbits, foxes, cats and dogs from the sanctuary. By actively excluding introduced predators, Mulligans Flat has been made a safe place for reintroductions of threatened bird and mammal species, including the Bush Stone Curlew, Eastern Bettong, Eastern Quoll, Brown Treecreeper, Southern Brown Bandicoot and Yellow-footed Antechinus. Many other native species, although less at risk of extinction, likewise thrive on the safe and habitat-diverse environment provided at Mulligans Flat and at Goorooyarroo.

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Floppy-top fence keeps out predators that can climb

I’ve wanted to visit Mulligans Flat for simply ages, and having now been there once for a very short, rather cold and windy, mid-day visit I really, really want to go there again. Many times. In all seasons. I would especially like to go along on one of their twilight tours, and (hopefully) see the bettongs, gliders, curlews and other nocturnal wildlife that call the sanctuary home. Many of these are species I’ve never seen before, and many are species that would have lived in my ‘local patch’ 50, 100, 200, 300 years ago – and some still do, they’re just spread thin and can be very difficult to find.

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SHAMELESS PLUG: You can donate money to help support threatened species conservation at Mulligans Flat HERE. Also, you should definitely follow @BrianBettong on Twitter, because he is by far the coolest Eastern Bettong on Twitter.

On my way in I passed a small mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus). I see Eastern Grey Kangaroos all the time at home, and sometimes Red Kangaroos as well, but very rarely do I see them this close. Wild kangaroos around home mostly keep themselves at a distance and take off if you get too close. These, however, were very clearly suburban kangaroos and completely not fazed by having a human staring at them from a mere few metres away, so I took the opportunity to get some much closer ‘roo photos than I can ordinarily expect to get.

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I stood there too long and this big male started checking me out in case I turned threatening
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I think she’s got a joey in that pouch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not far inside the gate of the main sanctuary I had great fun watching a treecreeper running up the side of a Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) tree. My pictures aren’t great but I believe she’s a female White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea).

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Female White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea) on a Yellow Box tree (Eucalyptus melliodora)
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A closer view of the treecreeper
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Another angle on the treecreeper

And continuing tonight’s trend of getting side-tracked and linking to all manner of other sites, I might as well mention that watching her spiral up the tree made me think of this Bird and Moon comic – if you like wildlife you should go check out the cartoons at Bird and Moon (sadly no Australian species are featured, but allowances can be made for the fact that the artist has never been to Australia).

Not long after I saw the treecreeper I made a very exciting discovery. Right at the top of my list of ‘Really Common Species I Have Somehow Never Seen’ for a very long time has been the Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides). I have wanted to see a wild Tawny Frogmouth for the last decade at least, yet despite my best efforts, and despite being repeatedly told by pretty much everyone I’ve ever met that they’re really common, and they’ve seen heaps of them, and they’re just amazed that I’ve never seen one, I’ve never seen one. At Mulligans Flat I saw two. I then grinned my head off for the next half an hour at least. Here is my best photo of them:

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Most exciting common bird sighting ever. My first ever Tawny Frogmouths!

I also saw a male scarlet robin (Petroica boodang), but I wasn’t able to get a photo, which is a shame because they’re pretty. He also made a lovely welcome splash of colour on what was a rather grey day.

A ways further down the track I caught a sudden flurry of reddish-brown movement and a small wallaby bounded away from where it had been hidden in the vegetation to where it could be hidden in slightly denser vegetation rather further away from me. There followed a bit of an impasse as I waited for the wallaby to move so I could get a better view of it and maybe some idea of the species, and it waited for me to move because I’m a scary  human and it wanted me to go away please. The wallaby won.

I still have no idea what species it was, possibly a Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus), or possibly a Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), I believe both are found at Mulligans Flat; it might even have been something else, I’m not sure how many wallaby species are found there. Here’s my best picture:

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Unidentified wallaby

After the wallaby I headed home because I was getting hungry and had a three hour drive ahead of me, but I’m glad I took the time to go visit Mulligans Flat, and I will definitely be heading back there whenever I get the chance.

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