Saturday 25 August 2018

Update 25th Aug 2018 - Naming of the new possums

It turns out Zoë does indeed have two babies. These have been named Leto and Ghani. I think (but am by no means sure) that both are male. Leto has the longer white tip on his tail (about a third of its length) and Ghani the shorter (less than a quarter).

Ghani on floor - 24th Aug 2018

Ghani on floor - 24th Aug 2018

Leto drinking from bucket of water - 16th Aug 2018

The names Leto and Ghani come from the red-headed twins Leto and Ghanima from Children of Dune. It's not quite as dry as Arrakis here, but getting that way; the water tank ran dry over a week ago, which is a month earlier than it ran dry last year.

Leto (front) and Ghani (back) riding on Zoë's back - 9th Aug 2018

The photo below shows the differing amount of white on the tails of the two babies. This is often the best way to tell ringtails apart.

Leto (front) and Ghani (back) riding on Zoë's back - 9th Aug 2018

On the 15th August, at about 5 pm (still daylight; dusk is about 6pm) I was surprised to see Leto and Ghani sitting side-by-side on the balcony floor, with no adult possums in sight. It was worrying to see young ringtails exposed in the daylight like this and somewhat sinister that they were sitting less than a metre from the place their grandmother Ruby was found dead last year. This raised the question of whether anything had happened to their parents Zoë and Koji.

Ghani accepted a sliver of grape and came into the house where he hid behind some furniture near the door and curled up for a rest. Leto took a drink of water from the bucket that is kept on the balcony for this purpose and then made his way into the nearby trees, where he started eating leaves while keeping an eye on the balcony.

Fortunately for the peace of mind of the humans involved, Zoë showed up as soon as it started getting dark and Koji also appeared a little later.

At the time I thought that maybe Zoë and her babies had had their nest disturbed and had had to run for it, with the babies making their way to a known safe place. Subsequently, however, Leto and Ghani have come onto the balcony by themselves just on dusk, so maybe they just decided they wanted to visit.

On one occasion, Ghani came into the house, first got into a humane rat trap (a folding Sherman-type box trap I had set up near the door to intercept any rats that might want to come inside) and then hid amongst cables behind a TV, seemingly happy to curl up there for a sleep. It didn't seem wise to leave him there, so I tried to scoop him up by hand to carry him out. This was a mistake; although he seemed to be a small and innocent little ball of fluff, and was comfortable around humans and accepted being touched, he really didn't like being picked up. It turned out his tiny mouth could open far enough to bite a human hand quite effectively and his claws were sharp enough to draw blood.

I ended up pushing him out the door as gently as possible while wearing a thick pair of welding gloves, like a typical cowardly human.

This experience did not appear to have traumatised him because he has subsequently been back inside the house twice more on his own.

Nikita(?) - 21st Aug 2018

In addition to Koji and Zoë and the twins, two other ringtails have been seen about, one male and one female. It is likely, but not certain, that the male is Akira and female Nikita. This would mean that I was wrong when I said that Nikita was male, but that's not surprising because Akira and Nikita didn't visit very often and were difficult to tell apart and most likely I have confused one with the other several times.

The two ringtails are certainly related to Koji; the female was seen with Koji and at one stage tore food out of his mouth. Also, one of these possums (probably Akira) was seen looking after Leto and Ghani at one stage.

Nikita(?) (below) takes food from Koji's (above) mouth - 21st Aug 2018

Nikita(?) (below) smirking as she eats food taken from Koji (above) - 21st Aug 2018

The new male brushtail has been named Bilbo. Although not quite hobbit-sized, he is a comparatively small possum. He is usually seen trying to get close to Sasha. He accepted food from humans remarkably quickly. Like a hobbit, he is very food-motivated.

Bilbo - 18th Aug 2018

Bilbo - 18th Aug 2018

Sasha's baby has been named Pogo, after Walt Kelly's Pogo Possum, (for more information see the Whirled of Kelly blog) but also because he particularly likes leaping around in the possum box like he's on a pogo stick.

Pogo Possum © Walt Kelly 1954

Sasha with Pogo in pouch - 18th Aug 2018

Pogo's tail seems to have an unusual spiral pattern on it near the tip. It will be interesting to see if this goes away as he grows older.

Pogo back-riding on Sasha - 19th Aug 2018

There were some unusual happenings in Box 2 recently.

Shortly after midnight on the 20th August, Zoë started bringing leaves into Box 2. It had been quite windy the previous night and possibly she was building a nest in a location safe from being disturbed by the wind. The leaves were from a golden wattle which seem to be especially prized by ringtails for bedding.

Zoë bringing leaves into Box 2 - 23rd Aug 2018

Unfortunately, a bit after 4 am, an unknown brushtail came into the nestbox, happily nibbled on the fresh leaves and curled up to sleep. Zoë must have been very disappointed that her freshly made nest had been usurped only hours after she completed it.

Toto(?) and baby in Box 2 - 23rd Aug 2018

The brushtail was not one of the regulars, and is a female with a small baby in the pouch. She could possibly be Toto, who was evicted from the area a couple of years ago by Sasha, but quite probably took up residence not too far away. The possum looked (to me) somewhat like Toto, however Toto would now be almost four years old and would most likely be larger than the possum that was seen. Bear in mind, though, that the camera in Box 2 is terrible and both the size and appearance of this possum are not at all clear.

Sasha immediately knew about the presence of this possum and as soon as it became dark camped out near Box 2 to give the intruder a warm welcome. Over the next few hours there was a stalemate, with the intruding possum remaining in the box and occasionally shrieking defiance when Sasha came too close. At about 10:45 pm, after Sasha had left the area, the possum managed to leave the box.

Later, Sasha went to scent-mark the box. The following day, the intruding possum cheekily returned to the box, seemingly to let Sasha know that she wasn't intimidated.

Finally, some comments on the box cameras:

Box 3 camera was out of service for over a month. Normally when a camera goes off-line it's something simple like a bad connector and is easily fixed, but in this case the camera itself had failed. Box 3 is very difficult to get to. The top of the box is 5 m above ground level and my extension ladder doesn't quite reach high enough to allow easy access. Access is further impeded by foliage under the box and a nest of angry ants behind it. Also, on a number of occasions possums have been using the box - the temperature sensor in the box still works so I can usually tell when possums enter - and it would have been a very bad idea to try to replace a box camera with a possum present.

Anyway, I eventually got around to replacing the camera and it's now working again. One annoying thing is that this style of camera is no longer available and I had to use the spare camera that was previously in the long-gone Box 5. Now my only remaining camera of this type is one that was removed from Box 6 after it had been taken over by bees in 2010. This camera is in very poor shape as it had been embedded in honeycomb.

This presents a difficulty because the cameras in Boxes 1 and 2 need replacing. The Box 1 camera is a cheap CMOS camera installed in 2008 which was never very good to begin with and has degraded over time. The camera in Box 2 is a "pinhole" type camera installed as an experiment in 2013; I thought it would give a better depth of field (a true pinhole camera has infinite depth of field), but in practice it's overall worse.

I have an idea to adapt cheap drone cameras purchased from eBay, but it requires a bit of work to put together something acceptable.


  1. Just a note to tell you I really do like your pictures and your blog. Possums are really such lovely animals -- I rescued a baby ringtail (whose mother was killed when the tree was felled) as a pet when I was a kid.

    1. Thank you for the encouraging comments. It always makes me feel good to know that possum-friendly people are reading this blog.

  2. Very busy possum time! I love the little ringtails, they are emmensely cute!

    1. Yes, baby ringtails seem to have a special sort of cuteness all of their own. :)