Archive for October 2011

RFI: Florida in Late November

October 27, 2011

Hi folks,

I am currently in the process of planning a birding trip near the end of November, to coincide with the marine mammal meeting being held in Tampa. During the meeting I plan on hitting up the Tampa power plant for Manatee, which should be an easy lifer, but have had mixed results getting much other mammal info for Florida (although Mark Hows report was useful).

I will have about a week before the meeting where I will be birding with a little bit of herping Miami, Everglades, and possibly the Keys. Besides the Manatee, any info on the following would be great:

Spotted Skunk
Marsh Rabbit
Mountain Lion (I know…long shot)
Any rodents or bats info

Thanks in advance for any assistance

New Trip Reports – Arizona and the Netherlands

October 24, 2011

SE Arizona, 2011: Alan Dahl, a week & 16 species including Mexican Fox Squirrel and Antelope Jackrabbit.

Double Dutch, 2011: Mark Hows, 3 days & 16 mammals including Bi-Coloured White-toothed Shrews and Root Voles.

New Trip Report – India

October 18, 2011

Here’s a report of my trip to Mumbai and through the Western Ghats which is ending right now

Over 40 species including Nilgiri Tahrs and Langurs, Lion-tailed Macaques, Brown Palm Civet, Dusky Striped Squirrel and Sloth Bears.


Ecuador Trip Report

October 17, 2011

A new trip report from Richard Webb (Wildwings), 2 weeks & 23 species including Spectacled Bear, Long-tailed Weasel, Golden-mantled Tamarin and a probable Dwarf Brocket Deer

I’m leaving India tomorrow after a great 12 days with over 40 species of mammals including most of the larger Western Ghat endemics. I will post a report soon


Handbook of Mammals Volume 2 is out

October 12, 2011

Volume 2, hoofed mammals, is now out. I know one blog member here who posted a pretty scathing comment on it on the lynx site, but I figured I would put my 2 cents in.

P.S. there is a long thread about this series on, where I already posted this:

My thoughts:

Things I liked: Overall I was pretty happy with the photos. I thought they had a nice balance of rare and common taxa, and showcased most of the range of behaviors nicely. The illustrations were great. The taxonomy was overall consistent (with the exception of the Bovidae), incorporating new discoveries and findings, but staying somewhat conservative. Some sections were incredibly well written; the Rhino conservation section is probably one of the most concise and well written accounts I have read of the problems for the group.

Things that I didn’t like: Some plates seemed a little too packed, especially the Horse plate, which I think would have worked better as two plates, one for zebras and one for everything else. This volume seemed to do a little worse than previous volumes as far as geographic variation. I would have liked to have seen more illustrated forms for White-tailed Deer (where is Key Deer?) and the Collared Peccary. At times the taxonomy seems a little too conservative, especially the approach towards subspecies.

The different chapters also were rather uneven in what they covered. Some sections give a good synopsis of the fossil record, others completely ignore it. The humans and pigs portion is really most about humans and pigs in southeast asia. etc.

Finally, the Bovid section. For those who hadn’t heard, the Authors are in the process of publishing a major taxonomic overhaul of this group and all other ungulates, and generally are considered extreme splitters. Something like an additional hundred species are recognized in this chapter, with practically every African species getting split into anywhere from 2 to 10 taxa. I think some of these splits will stand the test of time (depending on your view of species concepts), while I think others are premature. Also the reasoning behind many wasn’t really presented very well. It seems the authors wish the reader to refer to the Ungulate Taxonomy book, but this hasn’t even been published yet!

Also, just to be clear, I don’t think the Bovidae section really “follows” the PSC; It instead appears to be a retooling of the morphological species complex, and the authors often rely on a single gene as basis for there split, and appear to be selective in their choice of studies to follow.

Incidentally there is no right choice to follow between BSC or PSC…both concepts have their strengths and weaknesses, and the only important thing is to be consistent in how you apply them.


October 12, 2011


I’m planning a trip to Finland at the beginning of June, next year.  My priority is wolverine.  I’ve read the reports on here, and Wild Brown Bear – where Mark Hows went – is appealing as it seems to have both regular brown bear and wolverine and it’s relatively close to Oulu, where I’ll be going owl watching.  However, although I’d really like to see brown bear, I don’t want to reduce my chances of wolverine too much and I’m wondering if this is a good a bet as other places, where bears aren’t so common?  Also I presume that I’d need to book two nights – rather expensive! – in case I dip the first night?  Or are they likely to have free spaces if I fail on my first attempt?

Any thoughts on the best place for wolverine or any other tips/comments on any other mammals in Finland would be much appreciated.



Rodents in the Red Centre

October 6, 2011

Western McDonnell Ranges
When I last went to Old Andado Station, back in 2005, I was with my 4 year old son. We’d just seen Ayers Rock and he was using Ayers as a superlative. We named the bone chattering drive to Old Andado “Ayers Bumpy Road”. It was much better in October 2011 (though I remember last time the bumpiness didn’t perturb Patrick – he spent the entire 6 hour drive in total silence, quietly absorbed in making a variety of paper aeroplanes from his book of special designs).

I was heading back to Old Andado to look for some of the small desert mammals that I had failed to see last time. In particular after very good rains last year there were reports of large numbers of Long-haired (Plague) Rats and Plains Rats in the area.

It is 300km to Old Andado from Alice. I saw my first dead rodents after about 200km. There were several Long-haired Rats dead on the track, presumably dropped by raptors.

Binns Track: Alice to Old Andado

The Mac Clark Conservation Reserve is about 40km before Old Andado. Set up to protect a stand of rare Acacia Peuce trees, the signs there talk about a colony of Plains Mice that irrupt after good rain. There was plenty of signs of activity but no animals at 4pm, and I planned to return that night. Just past the turn off to the reserve I saw my first Letter Winged Kite (the world’s only nocturnal raptor and a sure sign that there were lots of rodents around).

Letter Winged Kite
I also saw the first of several Dingos.


I headed out from the homestead back along the track at 7pm for 5 hours of spotlighting. Six years ago I saw just one unidentified Dunnart in 2 hours of spotlighting. This evening I saw over a hundred animals.

Plague (Long-haired) Rats were scattered all along the track but most common near the homestead it seemed, particularly around the base of the big sand dune immediately to the west of the house. The rats would scamper for a burrow when caught in the spotlight. If the burrow was too small then just so long as the head went down ….

Long-haired Rat
There were several colonies of Plains Mice along the road and they seemed to increase in density as I got closer to the Mac Clark reserve (I saw my first confirmed sighting about 20km from Old Andado) but many many more after that including this animal which obligingly froze in the light. A beautiful animal and one of the nicest looking rodents I’ve seen.

Plains Mouse
There are Kultarrs on the gibber plains all throuhg the region and I imagine they too increase in numbers after good rains. I saw several animals briefly that might have been this species, finally seeing one well as it bounded across the road, its very long tail with black tuft clearly visible. The second lifer of the evening. They are unusual little things and I wish I had had a longer look.

Back at Old Andado there were a few Sandy Inland Mice in among the Plague Rats as well as some Spinifex Hopping Mice in the dunes behind the homestead. Several Dingos, some Rabbits and the odour of a decomposing Camel rounded off a great night.

The next morning I headed the 100km south to Mt Dare, just 10kms south of the NT/SA border. There were several flooded lakes en route with plenty of bird life.

I headed out back up the Binns Track (into Witjira National Park) that night for a couple of hours spotlighting. There were more Long-haired Rats and Plains Mice, more Spinifex Hopping Mice and some House Mice.

Long-haired Rat
I ran over a small mouse that dashed under the car: it turned out to be my first Desert Short-tailed Mouse (Leggadina forresti). The rodents had attracted many Barn Owls and a feral Cat.

Desert Short-tailed Mouse

The next morning I drove the long drive to Uluru stopping to look at some Flock Bronzewings at the start of the Binns Track. A great bird…. As far as birds go.

Flock Bronzewings

An irresistible welcome …

After 250km of muddy dirt I got back on the bitumen at Kulgera and came within a metre of hitting a couple of Red Kangaroos. As I was driving at 140 kmh, and hadn’t reduced the excess on my rental car, I think I was nearly as relieved as the roos.

I went back to Uluru to try again for Mulgara, which are – or at least were – reputed to be relatively common in the dunes. Six years ago I’d been told to try the dunes around the bus (as opposed to car) Sunset Viewing Area. I failed then and I failed again this evening, though as you are meant to leave the park by 8pm I only spent an hour looking. Spinifex Hopping Mice were particularly common there though.

And the sunset over the Rock was more spectacular than I remembered.

On my last day I headed back to Alice and then to Ormiston Gorge in the Western MacDonnell ranges in the vain hope of seeing a Central Rock Rat or Long-tailed Dunnart.

Ormiston Gorge
I had camped at Ormiston with the Australian Mammal Society back in 2000 and we had tried to catch some Central Rock Rats (a species lost to science in the 1960s and then rediscovered in 1996). The rats had irrupted in the late 1990s and were being caught inside the tool shed at Ormiston among other places. But they disappeared again in 1999 and we didn’t catch any. In 2010 they were caught again on the top of nearby Mount Sonder. I’m not sure when Rock Rats were last seen in Ormiston but the only mammals I saw during a beautiful 2 hour walk in the moonlight were a few Black-footed Rock Wallabies with a Red Kangaroo on the drive back to Alice.

And now I am flying to India.

Trip List
Red Kangaroo
Black-footed Rock Wallaby
Long-haired Rat
Plains Mouse
Sandy Inland Mouse
Spinifex Hopping Mouse
Desert Short-tailed Mouse
House Mouse