Tawny Frogmouth master of disguise in Aussie bush
Living on our property in rural Victoria near the alpine area, we are often treated to a variety of Australian birdlife ranging from bright blue Superb Fairy Wrens and raucous Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and occasionally the owl-like Tawny Frogmouth. The latter is a nocturnal bird that requires a keen eye to spot during the day. The tawny frogmouth is able to master the art of camouflage and blend in with the bark of a gum tree tucked in a hollow. My husband and I were thrilled to find the adult male pictured above in one of our large gum trees next to our dam last year. He graced us with his presence for more than a week, and his distinctive deep booming “Oom-oom-oom-oom” noise could often be heard in the evening.
Apparently, if they sense danger, Tawny Frogmouths can hiss loudly and puff themselves up to look much bigger with enlarged eyes and wide-open beaks. However, the best defence they have is in their ability to vanish into their surroundings. The mottled grey feathers against the matching bark of the tree also make them hard to photograph during the day. I love his closed eyes as he tries to ignore the world.
But come nightfall, and that sleepy pose is replaced with the action of flight and search for food. I assumed that frogs were on their menu because our dam is full of noisy croaking, especially during spring. The name Tawny Frogmouth relates to their appearance. The “large flattened, triangular, hooked beak which is olive-grey in colour, and the huge frog-like gape is used to catch insects” is the description provided by the animalcorner.org website. The birds also go through two different plumage colour changes from silver-grey to being russet-red.
Our visitor disappeared, although we could still hear faint sounds of “Oom-oom-oom-oom” from a distance for another week or so.
Then over a week ago, we had a surprise visitor land on our verandah close to our house early evening when it was going dark. My husband spotted the young Tawny Frogmouth while outside and called me out to look. I grabbed my camera and was thrilled to take some closeups of this downy little creature. We think our outdoor lights must have attracted him to try his luck at catching insects. It was fairly obvious this bird was still on his L-plates for flying and not long out of the nest. One notable aspect was the different noise to an adult bird which sounded more like a croak.
We didn’t want to stress him out too much, so we quickly moved away and were surprised when one of the parents landed on our verandah as if to say, come on home now. Lights were switched off, and we can only assume that the pair flew off together. There haven’t been any sightings since, so we hope they are alright.
I found a delightful video (link below) about these wonderful unusual, but endearing Australian birds which deserve to win our affection. Makes me appreciate seeing them in the wild so much more.
Wombat welfare concerns
Life is a gamble for many of our native wildlife species in Australia. Wombats are often fatal victims on our busy country roads and have succumbed to the scourge of mange in more recent years. It is believed the mange is spread by introduced species such as foxes and rabbits as well as wild dogs.
Farmers have a love-hate relationship with these animals due to their ability to burrow underground and create cavernous tunnels. Our country house and shed are built on a concrete slab, so they don’t try to dig under our buildings, but neighbours with weatherboard houses on stumps are forever trying to keep them out. City people may think wombats are cute animals but have never seen the damage caused by their powerful digging prowess. They are also nocturnal mammals, so they are out and about during the hours of darkness when most of us are indoors. I often find piles of scats around our property the following day marking their journey.
Suppose you happen to see a wombat wandering about during daylight hours. It is usually a sign that the animal has serious health issues related to mange which is an infestation of mites. They get under the skin of the wombat and cause unrelenting itchiness and loss of hair covering. Constant scratching creates red raw sore patches on their body and in the worst cases open wounds. The loss of hair covering forces the wombat to graze more to keep warm and to come out during daylight hours.
Another sad aspect is the impact on their hearing and sight. I have a wombat on my property at present who I can get very close when it is out eating grass during the day. I am careful not to get too close because wombats are wild animals and can get distressed. But I did get close enough to take some pictures and a video as a record of the wombat’s condition.
My husband and I thought we had discovered where the burrow of this particular wombat is on our property. We put some small sticks in the entrance to test this theory. Unfortunately, they remain undisturbed. Other burrows are waterlogged due to the heavy winter rains we are having this month. So we think its home must be on one of our neighbours properties. We had hoped to treat the wombat as per the instructions from the Wombat Mange Welfare website https://mangemanagement.org.au/.
It is not always easy to know when the wombat will be out and about. We have contacted the welfare people to see what can be done. It is heartbreaking to see them suffering this way so we need to encourage more action to eliminate this mange and return our wombats back to full health. Hopefully as more people are aware of this serious issue the more that can be done for them.
I haven’t seen the wombat this week probably due to it being so cold and wet, but will continue to keep an eye out for it. Follow the link to the website to learn more about what is being done to manage mange in wombats