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Thursday, 06 July 2023 22:39

Night visitors

Have you ever wondered about all the little creatures that may visit your garden at night? A wildlife camera has been on our wish list for some time but we finally got round to getting one when former STEP president, John Burke, showed us the photo of a wallaby he’d caught on his camera. His garden backs onto a huge bushland area but behind us we have only a very small bush reserve surrounded completely by homes so we knew any of our visitors would be far smaller.

Our first experiment resulted in the usual suspects: a brush tail possum, a ringtail and a rat. There was also a pair of bright eyes across the fence watching from our neighbour’s tree.

The next location we chose for setting up the camera was a series of snuffle holes close to the gate adjoining the bushland and the first images taken that night revealed a very healthy-looking bandicoot. We were so delighted but what chilled us was an image taken not long after of a large cat sniffing the bandicoot’s trail.

It really brings it home how vulnerable our native animals are. There are districts like the Blue Mountains where owners are required to keep their cats in at night. Although it’s not mandatory in metropolitan Sydney, it’s a matter of management — sticking a pot plant in front of the cat flap, saying no to Tiddles. There are mixed reports as to whether collars with bells are a solution because it has been found that some cats are clever enough to move so stealthily that their bells don’t alert their prey. So if you own a cat and live near bushland, please consider keeping it in at night.

Our latest camera experiment has been to set it up to watch the nesting box on our paperbark tree and see if it has any occupants at the moment. The box was designed for a glider but we did suspect that little ringtails had used it and the bark approach to the box showed signs of traffic. So far, we have seen nothing emerging or disappearing into the box (maybe we did not set a long enough timeframe) but our camera has caught a very active ringtail on the tree.

We would encourage STEP members to think about getting a night camera (can be used for general security, too) especially if you have a family. Encouraging kids to understand more about the world of our precious native animals and to appreciate how precarious life can be for these little creatures in our urban environment is one of the ways to safeguard them for the future.