The Perth area lies in the south-west of Western Australia, which is a region internationally recognised for is biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the variety of organisms (plants, animals and fungi) present in a particular area. South-west WA is one of the 34 Biodiversity Hotspots found throughout the world. It is the only area anywhere in Australia with such a variety of organisms – particularly plants. Unfortunately, it is also a place where a large proportion of plants and animals are threatened by human development.
Many larger animals share their homes with us in the Mundaring forest, but as Mardo Reserve is so small, few would live year-round on this block alone. Most species are quite mobile and move throughout the broader landscape which includes the reserve, the primary school, neighbouring properties and beyond. However, the fact that Mardo reserve contains native vegetation makes it highly attractive to local animals – it contains the resources they need for food and nesting places.
Some of the most conspicuous animals recorded at Mardo reserve are listed below. Common names are given first, followed by the local Noongar name, and the scientific name. You can read more about the students trapping and monitoring some animals on the 'Meeting the Animals' page.
The Mardo is a native mammal small enough to fit into your enclosed hand (see above photo). It is often described as a ‘marsupial mouse’ but this name is a misleading contradiction: mice belong to a group of mammals known as ‘placentals’ which are quite different from marsupials. Mardo have sharp teeth and are adept hunters of large insects, small lizards and even baby mice. They forage on the ground among leaf litter but are also great climbers, venturing high above the ground to eat birds’ eggs and hide in tree hollows. A Mardo skull was located in the reserve and inspired Mundaring students to adopt this name. While no live Mardo have yet been recorded, the continued monitoring of nest boxes will hopefully determine if they still call the reserve home.
Quenda are sometimes confused with rats, although as with Mardo, they are totally unrelated to rodents. When observed closely it is easy to see they are a unique marsupial with a backward facing pouch, small ears, a short tail, and 4 toes rather than five. And unlike rats, they are not capable of climbing walls and making a racket in your roof! Like most small, ground-dwelling marsupials, Quenda declined in numbers following European settlement. In suburbs of the Perth Hills, however, they have shown a rapid recovery during the last 15 years and are now quite common, especially where thick vegetation in backyards provides cover from predators. They feed mostly on a range of invertebrates (earthworms, beetle larvae, snails) as well as frogs and small lizards, sometimes digging large holes to reach their food. This activity reintroduces nutrients into the soil, helps with water penetration, and composts leaf litter (reducing the fire risk), making them helpful little diggers. Quenda are a rare example of a native mammal adapting to human development in Australia.
Most people are familiar with the word ‘possum’ (unlike words like Mardo and Quenda) and hills residents can relate to this pretty-faced, tree-dwelling marsupial. The one speces found in the Perth Hills is the Common Brushtail, known to the Noongar people as 'koomal'. The name of the wheatbelt town Goomalling just north of Northam means 'place of possums' in the Noongar language. Brushtails are still relatively common throughout forest in the south-west, although survival is difficult in developed areas where every backyard has a dog and/or cat. Large trees with a connecting canopy help possums travel through the landscape without the need to come to the ground and risk predation. They eat a variety of food including flowers, nectar, fresh leaves, insects and occasionally birds' eggs. During the day brushtails sleep inside a tree hollow, but with the loss of large old trees, they have taken a liking to peoples' rooves. Trapping and relocation is usually not successful as they possums often die, so the best way to deal with possums in your roof is to locate the point of entry into your roof, wire all the eaves up except for this spot, install a nest box as an alternative den site and wait a few weeks for the possum to find it, then close up the point of entry so they can't get back in. Read more about possums here.
A large, blood-sucking vampire is the image that comes to mind for many when they hear the word 'bat'. However, this couldn't be further from the truth when describing the type of bats we find in our forests. Microbats are a very small native mammal (picture a mouse with wings) and there are about 7 different species in the Mundaring area, all of which feed on insects. Microbats locate their prey using special sonar equipment - they emit tiny squeaks as they fly which bounce off insects, return to the bats' ears and tell them how close they are. Only one bat call, that of the White-striped Freetail Bat (Tadarida australis), is audible to human ears, and is a loud, slow 'tick....tick....tick....tick....' You can often hear this at night as the bats fly over head. Other species have calls beyond our hearing, but they can be heard by a special device called a 'bat detector', which picks up the high-frequency sounds and records them. The species pictured here is a Gould's Wattled Bat (Chalinolobus gouldii) and was photographed while roosting inside a nest box. This species can roost during the day by itself, or sometimes in larger colonies (in the nest box above there were 17 bats all together!). They emerge just on dusk and can sometimes be seen flying just above the trees during twilight.
Easily identified by its yellow-green rump visible when flying past, this beautiful parrot is unique to the south-west of Western Australia. Red-caps are relatively common in the Mundaring Shire because of the abundance of Marri trees, which produce its main food in the form of honkey nuts. They use a specially adapted long beak to probe into the nuts and remove the nutritious seeds inside. This bird may also be attracted to Grevillea shrubs in your garden, perching low in the foliage to feed on the flowers. Red-caps nest in hollow branches and lay up to seven white eggs which are placed on a chewed-up bed of wood chips. Young birds are mostly green in colour and spend lots of time with their parents after fledging.
Commonly known as the ’28 Parrot’, this bird is very abundant in Mundaring, having increased in number since European settlement. The slang name comes from its three-noted call ‘wood-ee-ate’, which does sound like someone saying ‘28’ if you listen carefully and imagine them speaking with an English accent! Ringnecks feed on a variety of fruits and plant material including the fleshy skin of honkey nuts. They were the first species to successfully use nest boxes in Mardo reserve. You can read more about ringnecks by visiting the iNSiGHT News website and typing 'ringneck' in the search bar.
This iconic cockatoo, like the Red-capped Parrot, is only found in the south-west of WA, making it very special. It grows to about half a metre in length and when observed in flight has conspicuous red panels on its tail feathers. It’s loud calls of ‘karaak’ or ‘kree’ can also be used to identify the species. The Marri fruit in Mardo reserve provide essential food for this cockatoo and birds have been observed feeding right next to the primary school's administration building. Unfortunately the Forest Red-tail population has suffered a huge decline in the last 50 years owing to habitat destruction, loss of nest trees, competition for nest sites from feral bees and galahs, and illegal poaching. This has lead to its current listing as an Endangered species. In 2011 the species was recorded using an artifical nest box at Murdoch university, the first time it has ever been known to breed on the Swan Coastal Plain. This bodes well for the success of other nest boxes, especially those placed in Mardo Reserve!
A very well-known garden inhabitant, the Bobtail or Shingleback is a common reptile of the Perth region. It is unusual in that it gives birth to live young, rather than laying eggs like most reptiles. Bobtails are useful to have around your backyard as they eat a lot of invertebrates we find to be pests like slugs, snails and crickets. They also eat plant material and have been known to eat the occasional strawberry or tomato! Bobtails will move through Mardo Reserve while foraging and the numerous rocks and logs make it a suitable place for females to give birth. Each spring the bobtail population suffers enormous losses when hundreds are killed by cars, but miraculously they manage to cope. To a reptile our roads are nothing more than an open section of rock ideal for basking on – they have no way of knowing anything about cars. It is therefore up to us to drive with caution and keep a sharp eye on the road.
Easy to miss, these tiny reptiles (about the length of a pencil) are usually referred to by their scientific genus name ‘Morethia’. They inhabit patches of our local forest and do well where there is leaf-litter in which to hide. These skinks are one of the few animals that the reserve is large enough to support a population of, and perhaps dozens of individuals reside there. Several were caught in pitfall traps during the biological monitoring in 2013. Nine species of Morethia live in Australia and eight of these are found in WA. During the breeding season in spring and summer, males adopt a bright orange patch on their throats and use this in a display to attract the females – this feature can be used to tell the sexes apart.