Mad March Possums

5 Apr

Dear reader

Each season in our southern state has its own natural highlights, For many March in Adelaide is a very special month; one where culture and wildlife seem to interconnect in rather unusual ways.

The city of Adelaide is separated from the outer suburbs by over 760 hectares of parklands. They consist of playing fields, open woodland, creeks and gardens. Most of the year, the parklands are frequented by joggers, cyclists and picnicking families. However, each March the serenity of the eastern parklands is replaced by the roar of V8 motors, the rhythms of international music and a surreal feast of various performing artists.

A Open woodland environment of the Adelaide parklands

A Open woodland environment of the Adelaide parklands

Now, you would think that such an onslaught of humanity; its sounds, lights and smells would frighten the daylights out of the parklands’ resident wildlife. Admittedly, the local birds do seem a little more nervous and the resident bat population somewhat more erratic in their coming and goings. On the other hand, the possum population seems to relish the activity. Although they are not obvious to the casual observer, when the troubadours, drivers and musicians retire for the night these masters of the nocturnal world emerge to search for the spoils of the day.

Fruit Bats or Grey- headed Flying -foxes are found in the Botanic Gardens which are situated within  the Parklands

Fruit bats or grey- headed flying -foxes are found in the Botanic Gardens which are situated within the Parklands

Over the last few years I have enjoyed the city’s March festivities and often wandered down the east end to take in a concert, play or watch the ‘V8 Supercars’ burn up the track. This year, I decided to walk home after a late night performance and was more than surprised to see a couple of common brushtail possums foraging near an overflowing trash can. Normally solitary, these cat sizes marsupials seemed indifferent to each other as they sought out some apple and banana leftovers, a welcome change to their usual diet of leaves, buds and native fruits. I was aware that possum numbers had generally declined throughout the state due to habitat changes and predation by feral animals, most notably cats. I watched them for a while thinking to myself that if a little party food on the side bolstered their survival chances who was I to take the purist stand on natural diets for our indigenous species.

Brush Tail Possums use their delicate paws and sharp claws for feeding, climbing and grooming

Brush tail possums use their delicate paws and sharp claws for feeding, climbing and grooming

Unfortunately, I was not carrying a camera and decided to return the next evening at the unearthly hour of 4 am armed with my DSLR and long lens, in the hope of capturing a few shots. I was not disappointed. One particular animal that was sitting by the side of a trash can taking stock of the menu decided to climb up into a nearby tree as I approached. Staring defiantly at me as I adjusted the flash setting to suit the telephoto, it conveniently struck a number of typically possum-like poses then promptly disappeared into the upper branches once the modelling session had finished.

A possum's yellow fur shows where its pouch is situated

The yellowish fur on a female possum’s fur shows where its pouch is situated

I crossed to the other side of the road and scanned some native pine trees with a high powered flashlight. The stand of trees was situated just inside the perimeter fence of the aptly named ‘Garden of Unearthly Delights’, one of the festivals most notorious attractions. I was hoping to flush out a ringtail possum, a smaller less frequently seen species. Unfortunately there were none to be found but I did manage to find a brushtail climbing the trunk of a large pine using its prehensile tail to hold on while testing the capability of a smaller branch to bear its weight.

Brushtail Possum foraging in a native pine tree

Brushtail possum using its prehensile tail while foraging in a native pine tree

On the whole it was a successful night though I would dearly have liked to see a ringtail. Perhaps another night when sleep eludes me and the lure of the city’s indigenous nightlife beckons I’ll capture that image.



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