IN and around Ballarat we have two species of possums. The better-known one is the brushtail. The other is the ringtail.
The common ringtail possum is smaller and daintier than the larger brushtail possum.
Possums are agile creatures and can leap considerable distances when they need to.
This was demonstrated last month when a pair of ringtail possums made a surprisingly long leap of from eight to 10 metres.
They had been disturbed from their nest in a eucalypt and had made their way up to the topmost branches. This is their normal habit when disturbed.
A tree maintenance worker had caused the initial disturbance to the animals, and it was no doubt his continued presence that disturbed them further.
From their treetop refuge they leapt down eight to 10 metres, thudded onto a nearby metal skillion roof and scampered away. The observers were surprised that the possums would attempt such a jump, and also that the animals were apparently uninjured.
The possums launched themselves like their relatives the gliders with all four limbs outspread.
Both possum species can be nuisances in gardens, where they readily eat rose buds.
The ringtail's main food is young growth of eucalypts, flowers and berries. It also eats leaves of deciduous trees such as willows.
The usual possum nuisance in roof-spaces is the brushtail. The ringtail is less likely.
Ringtail possums frequently make their globular leafy nests in hawthorn bushes. These are obvious at this time of the year, when the hawthorns are leafless.
A few of these nests were noticed last weekend at Learmonth, along with a couple of old blackbirds' nests and one nest of a yellow-faced honeyeater.
THE Brolga Recovery Group will meet at Mortlake this Sunday, August 19, to launch its annual brolga calendar.
This free calendar provides opportunities for recording brolga sightings and it also gives observers an opportunity to contribute information that may assist in brolga conservation.
The launch will take place from 1.30pm at the Mt Shadwell Hotel, Dunlop Street, Mortlake. For information phone 5599 5233.
Tiny birds in the cold
HOW do tiny birds such as thornbills survive in the cold?
Their usual food is insects, but these are surely difficult to locate in winter when the temperature is below 10 degrees.
One of our smallest bushbirds is the striated thornbill. Its main food is small invertebrates such as caterpillars, beetles, grubs, spiders and bugs. It finds most of these on the twigs and leaves of eucalypts.
The similar-sized brown thornbill is found through Ballarat and district. It lives mostly in lower vegetation, such as shrubs and other low plants. Insects are probably easier to locate in these more sheltered spots than they would among the gum leaves.