Category Archives: Mammals

I wonder …

… how often, if ever, a Peaceful Dove falls victim to a Yellow-footed Antechinus?

Last week in the Rise and Shine I was intrigued to see a flock of six foraging doves within a few metres of an actively hunting antechinus.

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Peaceful Dove, Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 9th May 2021

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Antechinus

Yellow-footed Antechinus

‘Ante’ antics

I never tire of watching Yellow-footed Antechinus as they go about their business. These tiny, fearless carnivores are always on the move, in search of insects, small reptiles, birds eggs and even nestlings if they get the chance. I encounter them on most visits to the Rise and Shine, one of a number of local hot-spots for the species.

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Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise & Shine Bushland Reserve, 8th March 2021

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The raven and the echidna

Ravens, in my experience, a difficult birds to photograph. They are constantly alert and wary of humans, but are the most magnificent birds.

We have two local species, the Little Raven and the Australian Raven. It can be difficult to tell them apart. The Australian Raven is larger, with a more robust bill – the best way to separate the species is by call. Australian Ravens typically utter a slow, drawn out call aihh-aaah-aaah-aaaaaahhh … the last note dropping in pitch and intensity, while the Little Raven utters short rapid notes – ark-ark-ark … and yes, just to reiterate, we don’t have crows around here!

The bird pictured below is, I’m fairly sure, a juvenile Little Raven. It dropped, in a wheeling descent, from a passing flock of adults to drink in this small pool in the Rise and Shine. Yet to adopt the wariness of an adult raven it allowed me to capture a few images before it departed.

At the same time a Short-beaked Echidna moseyed straight past me … a nice finish to my stint at the pool.

Little Raven (juvenile), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 1st December 2020

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Short-beaked Echidna

Let the games begin

For much of the year these two species, the Yellow-footed Antechinus and the Rainbow Bee-eater, maintain a more than adequate social distance.

Rainbowbirds, of course, are in northern Australia from late March until early October. It’s only when they return to central Victoria to reoccupy their breeding tunnels – usually from mid November until about Xmas, that they resume contact with one of their arch enemies.

Yellow-footed Antechinus are restless hunters of insects, lizards and if they get the opportunity, eggs and nestling birds. At present Yellow-footed Antechinus have young – if you are lucky you might see a female playing ‘piggyback’ with its brood.

They will happily forage on the vertical faces of erosion gullies, typical sites for Rainbow Bee-eater nests. Each summer I watch the contest between these two amazing animals as the bee-eaters chase the antechinus away whenever they venture near an active nest.

In times past other predators would have also been a concern – Eastern Quoll (to roosting birds), dunnarts and other antechinus species – sadly all now locally extinct or rare. I imagine the Brush-tailed Phascogale may also pose a threat, but they are much less abundant than their smaller cousin … and I’m not sure they could squeeze into a bee-eater tunnel!

Rainbow Bee-eater, Sandon State Forest, 27th October 2020

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Yellow-footed Antechinus hunting

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Out of the woodwork

I visited the Rise and Shine yesterday morning in the hope of photographing some birds. Whilst I was waiting for an Eastern Yellow Robin to come close enough for some photos (which it didn’t) I noticed a Yellow-footed Antechinus Antechinus flavipes pop its beautiful head out of a hollow log.

Yellow-footed Antechinus

I was already alert to the possibility of seeing these cuties out and about in the fallen wood. They are known to be more active in the day than other Antechinus species. This one seemed very unconcerned by my presence and getting close wasn’t an issue, especially when it would pop onto the top of a log to check me out.

Checking out the human
Then hopping off to find some food

Many readers of this blog would know that if this is a male, he won’t have long to live. Mating season will start soon and all the males will die after a frenetic bout of mating that will leave them all exhausted and with depleted immune systems. Both males and females are formidable hunters with healthy appetites for invertebrates, eggs, nectar and sometimes small birds and mice. This one was getting a lot of invertebrates out of the leaf litter and the main challenge for photography was keeping up with it.

A bit of a rummage
A millipede on its way to becoming antechinus
Another tasty treat

Not surprisingly, research shows the strongest predictors of Antechinus numbers are leaf litter and cover in the form of dead wood and rocks. Although this little one seemingly felt no threat from me, humans pose a threat by removing dead wood. And also by changing the climate. Animals with the mating style of Antechinuses are very poorly adapted to changing temperatures.

One thing they are very well adapted to is a vertical surface. I love the way this one hangs on to a tree trunk as if it’s standing on a flat surface.

At ease at any angle

Up to scratch

Now is the time of peak activity for Yellow-footed Antechinus. Their breeding season extends from mid-winter into early spring, so as winter approaches they become extremely active – day and night – in search of food.

Not many visits to the Muckleford bush pass without at least one sighting of these charming marsupials. I disturbed this one late yesterday afternoon as it foraged on the forest floor. It hid for a few minutes in a nearby stump and then popped out to scratch and lick its coat before resuming its hunt.

Yellow-footed Antechinus, South German Track, 29th May 2020

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Short stories

Spreading Wattle Acacia genistifolia is a wonderful autumn flowering species – it’s peaking at present throughout the Muckleford bush. Most specimens are sparse, with few flowers – not this one.

Spreading Wattle, South German Track, 13th April 2020

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This Yellow-footed Antechinus emerged from a crack in the trunk of a Grey Box. It paused for a moment in the sunshine, revealing a nasty ‘growth’ on its side. It looks to me like a blood-engorged tick, or perhaps a skin tumour. It’s a bit early for this species to be in physiological die-off after its winter mating frenzy.

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This White-browed Babbler was one of a party feeding in a clump of Box Mistletoe. The mistletoe was also of interest to an aggressive flock of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, the blossom is a key source of nectar at this time of year. The babblers were quickly ejected as the honeyeaters reclaimed the bounty.

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater in Box Mistletoe

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater in Spreading Wattle

Seeking the seeker

As a nature photographer I have a bucket list of images that I’m seeking to capture – the shots are ‘in my head’, awaiting the opportunity to see each one live as I wander through the local bush.

One image I’m seeking is that of a Yellow-footed Antechinus with its prey, perhaps a centipede, cockroach or beetle that it has captured moments earlier. While I have many photographs of this hyperactive marsupial seeker, the image in my mind’s eye has so far eluded me.

I watched one, along Sullivan’s Track in the Muckleford bush, for fifteen minutes or so earlier in the week. With the photographer at a distance it was quite happy to hunt as I snapped away. Alas, the oft visualised image remains firmly ‘in my head’ … but not in the camera!

Yellow-footed Antechinus, Sullivan’s Track, 31st March 2020

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Life goes on …

There is an ancient Yellow Box in the Rise and Shine that I’ve photographed a few times over the past decade. Sadly the last few leafy branches were lost around three years ago and the tree died.

The living tree was not only old and gnarly, it displayed the most amazing spiral pattern in the bark. This has likely occurred as a result of the growing tree’s differential access to moisture and nutrients (e.g. more abundant on one side) or a prevailing wind affect on what is a very exposed site. Despite its passing the old Yellow Box continues to provide life, a Yellow-footed Antechinus searching for insects delighted us on an early morning stroll … as did the Black Kite, observed sunning on our return trip to home.

Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 26th January 2020

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Black Kite

With old friends at the ‘Shine’

Enjoyed the morning with some old friends at the Rise and Shine.

Seen also but not pictured here … Sacred Kingfisher, Dusky Woodswallow, Fuscous Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Brown Treecreeper, Tree Martin and White-winged Chough.

Australian Owlet-nightjar, Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 25th January 2020

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White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike … just missed the shot!

Crested Shrike-tit

White-browed Babbler

Yellow-footed Antechinus