I regularly post photos of wildlife spotted on my walks in the local parks to our neighbourhood Facebook Group, and many neighbours then message me to ask if they could tag along the next time. So, I decided to throw open the offer to the entire group, and more than 60 families expressed an interest! I have found that small-group tours work best, so I volunteered to lead a small-group, twilight, wildlife walk to a local forest reserve and within a few hours we had a full complement ‘booked in’.
Our evening started at 4:35pm with only one group arriving 5mins late – that was me! 😦 After an apology, quick introductions and a couple minutes explaining the route and wildlife spotting techniques, our group of 18 (including 9 children) were off.
The children in our group were just fantastic – excellent wildlife spotters, and so enthusiastic. Within half an hour they had found kangaroos, Spotted-necked Doves, Spotted Pardalotes, Eastern Rosellas, Crimson Rosellas, Lorikeets, Corellas, Pied Currawongs, Noisy Miners, Red Wattlebirds, Common Bronzewings, and Brown Thornbills.
We then went off-path, bush bashed, crossed two creeks, and got to a special clearing in the heart of the ‘forest’ where I knew a Scarlet Robin called home. On cue a splendid male Scarlet Robin appeared, giving the entire group excellent views. They really are little red, white and black eggs on legs!
The light was fading fast, so we made our way to ‘Basecamp’ at the billabong for the nocturnal part of the walk. The group passed around glowstick bracelets and chocolates and we then fired up our red torches. I was pleasantly surprised that red cellophane secured with a rubber band over torches actually worked so well! The red light proved to be only mildly disruptive to the wildlife – a small price to pay to inspire the kids in the group to conserve them.
We began scanning the trees and skies, and within two minutes someone shouted “owl”. Although the bird that landed above our heads was a Tawny Frogmouth, that was close enough. We enjoyed it for at least five minutes before it flew off into the night.
We continued to scan the trees near the billabong, and one of the kids shouted “Possum!”. We all trained our torches on the branch and I thought to myself, “what a tiny Possum – perhaps it’s a joey”, until it dawned on me that it was actually a Sugar Glider. That’s right folks: a Sugar Glider, in Melbourne suburbia!
Everyone in the group was totally enthralled at seeing the uber cute tiny marsupial. Then a second one appeared, then a third, then a fourth, and a fifth! Another person in our group shouted “Sugar Glider AND Ringtail Possum here”. I’m so glad I didn’t run over to them, because a few of the kids and I were quite fortunate to see one of the gliders extend its underarm webbing and glide a few metres to the next tree. It was a brief but unforgettable experience.
By now it was 6:15pm, and we started making our way back to the exit. The sharp-eyed kids found a Brushtail Possum, then another Tawny Frogmouth, before rounding off the night with a Ringtail Possum at eye level.
As we parted ways, everyone was in agreement, especially the children, that it was a fantastic evening out in suburbia, spending time with 15+ species of amazing wildlife and 18 wonderful neighbours!!
(Activities like these foster a great sense of community spirit, and they afford an excellent opportunity to reinforce key conservation messages such as keeping cats indoors at night, so I’m looking forward to leading a few more tours!)