Sunday 28 December 2014

The Mystery of The Orange Powder

Recently, Comet appeared with orange powder on his nose.

Comet with the mystery orange powder on his nose - 25th Dec 2014

The presence of this orange powder is an ongoing minor mystery that occurs pretty much every December (but no other time of year).

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Update 23rd Dec 2014

Wasabi was seen a bit over a week ago, looking very healthy.

Wasabi feasting on flowers - 12th Dec 2014

Although it was nearly two months since he was last seen, he wasn't interested in visiting the humans. The reason for this soon became apparent.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Update 7th Dec 2014

Comet has now progressed to the stage where Kiki only barely tolerates his presence, and he is well aware of this fact.

Comet looking around nervously - 3rd Dec 2014

If he is in a tree nearby when Kiki is being fed, which is happening less and less often, he often scampers off when Kiki makes a sudden move towards him.

Friday 14 November 2014

Update 14th Nov 2014

Comet is starting to reach the next stage in the education of a young possum; the stage where the mother possum no longer tolerates having food snatched out of her mouth, and chases off the youngster instead. So far he's been chased off only once (that I've seen), but his days of grabbing food are severely numbered.

Kiki (left) and Comet (right) - 30th Oct 2014

Sunday 19 October 2014

Update 19th Oct 2014

Comet is doing well.

Comet (left) and Kiki (right) - 18th Oct 2014

Comet particularly likes going off on his own. Normally, when a young possum of his age is with his/her mother, and scores a particularly delicious piece of food (usually by tearing it from the mother's mouth), they will retreat (no doubt to prevent the mother from grabbing it back) to perhaps a metre away from the mother to enjoy their treat. In Comet's case, however, he often runs off and hides in another tree five or more metres away. This is unusual; even Oz, who was a particularly adventurous/exploring possum, never did this.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Update 2nd Oct 2014

Although still just a little ball of fluff, Comet is very independent and adventurous. He often goes off on his own and on several occasions has visited the house by himself.

Comet - 18th Sept 2014

He looks to be at least as independent as his older brother Oz (who, by the way, hasn't been seen since he left home early in August).

Saturday 13 September 2014

Update 13th Sept 2014 - Comet back-riding

Comet is now fully out of the pouch and back-riding. Here is a photo from his first visit to the house.

Comet riding on Kiki's back - 7th Sept 2014

Friday 29 August 2014

Update 29th Aug 2014 - First photo of Kiki's new baby, Comet

Kiki's latest baby has been named Comet. He (I'm not 100% sure, but he looks like a male in the box camera footage) seems to be a particularly energetic little possum. I managed to take his photo when he put his head out of the nestbox yesterday.

Comet - 28th Aug 2014

Comet is now leaving the nestbox riding on Kiki's back, but returns to the pouch before Kiki visits the house. He will be back-riding for longer periods every night from now on, and will become less and less energetic when he returns to nestbox.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Baby Possum Alert!

Today, Kiki slept in box 7 for the first time in a long while, and her pouch baby came out to play. This is the first time her latest baby has been seen.

Kiki and 11th Baby - 12th August 2014

If Kiki remains in Box 7, the next few weeks will be a very good time to tune in to Possum TV.

Friday 1 August 2014

Update 1st August 2014

There has been hardly any change since the last update. This counts as good news because it means everyone is still healthy and happy. Kiki, Oz and Wasabi are still visiting regularly. Dexter, Prok and various ringtails are also around, but none are any closer to tolerating human company.

Oz - 31st July 2014

Oz continues to monopolise Box 7.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Update 17th July 2014

Kiki, Oz and Wasabi have been visiting regularly. Dexter and Prok have been seen around the place but still shun human company.

Kiki - 15th July 2014

Saturday 21 June 2014

Update 21st June 2014

Wasabi has been visiting regularly. He and Oz tolerate each other reasonably well.

Wasabi (left) and Oz (right) - 15th June 2014 [Photo by Xesce]

There have been several other ringtails seen about the place, but these have been difficult to identify. Tilda and Ruby are probably amongst them.

Friday 13 June 2014

Silly Searches

One of the fun things about having a web site is looking through the statistics and finding the weird search search terms that lead people to it. Unfortunately, Google are now starting to block this information (presumably for devious commercial motives), so this activity will soon become a thing of the past.

Anyway, while I still have the chance, I thought I'd share some of the search terms used on the Possum TV webcam server and Youtube channel (for some reason Blogger logs almost nothing).

For the most part, people are interested in possum sounds, possums mating or possum mating sounds. The majority of the search terms are therefore pretty predictable.


Saturday 31 May 2014

Update 31st May 2014

Oz is now independent of Kiki. They generally visit the house at different times, and Kiki chases Oz away when she see him. Hopefully Oz won't be chased away for good until springtime.

Oz - 30th May 2014

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Update 13th May 2014

Kiki and Oz are regular visitors.

Kiki (left) and Oz (right) 12th May 2014

Saturday 19 April 2014

Update 19th Apr 2014

Wasabi has been seen again. He is healthy and his tail injury continues to improve.

Wasabi - 19th April 2014

Friday 18 April 2014

Update your bookmarks (again)!

If you have the possum webcam site at bookmarked, you will need to change the link to

I've just been informed that DynDNS are cancelling their free accounts from 7th May 2014, which means that any links to the possum webcam server at will (presumably) stop working after this date - unless I move to a paid account. Since I now have the domain, and the dyndns domain name wasn't a very good one to begin with (I only got it because it was free), there's no reason to pay to keep it alive.

For what it's worth, I have temporarily set up to redirect to, but this will stop working when dies.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Wasabi is back!

Just a quick note to say that Wasabi has been seen tonight for the first time since his release from hospital over three weeks ago. He looks healthy and is still as friendly and happy as ever.

Wasabi - 6th April 2014

Friday 4 April 2014

Update 4th Apr 2014

The young ringtail who visited last time has been given a name: Batgirl. She is brave and athletic, and when her name was mentioned to her, she responded with an energetic leap onto a nearby branch, as if saying that she likes the name.

Batgirl (all she needs is a cape) - 31st Mar 2014

Batgirl (who is probably the daughter of Tilda and Wasabi) seems to like humans; she tends to come closer when humans are around, whereas other ringtails usually retreat, but she doesn't accept food. It's probably good that a young ringtail sticks to natural foods anyway.

Sunday 30 March 2014

New domain name

I've managed to obtain the domain name Previously it was being used by some Russian site, but it seems they shut down some time ago and let the registration lapse.

This means that you can get to the possum webcam server via and, as well as the original link

Also, this blog is now at The original link will still work, and redirects to the new domain name.

What do you need to do?

As far as the blog goes, both the old and the new link will always work correctly, so you don't have to change anything.[edit: If you use an RSS feed, you might have noticed all of the entries have changed to "unread". This is a one-off thing caused by the old domain name redirecting to the new one, and can be ignored.]

The Possum TV Live webcam server is a little more tricky because it's still on a dynamic IP address. While both links will normally work there are situations where either or both may stop working for a while. I would recommend changing your link to, but for the time being keep a backup link to

In other news, I've also found a typo in the script that takes snapshots of possum boxes. The effect of this bug was that if the system was a bit slow, rather than waiting for a new snapshot to be generated (as intended), it instead returned an older snapshot in its place. This has now (hopefully) been fixed. I apologise to anyone who has lost snapshots due to this bug.

Friday 21 March 2014

Update 21st Mar 2014

Wasabi hasn't been seen since his release from hospital over a week ago. It's normal for him to go away for long periods of time, so this is not a cause for concern, but it would still be very good to know how he's getting on.

Recently a very young ringtail, who is quite probably the offspring of Tilda and Wasabi, came to the house and sat on the hand-rail of the balcony, undeterred by the presence of humans. The ringtail wasn't after food (at least s/he ignored small pieces of apple and pear on the handrail), and it's almost as if the little one was a messenger from Wasabi: "go to the humans and tell them that I'm alright".

Baby Ringtail - 19th Mar 2014

Friday 14 March 2014

Wasabi's Stay in Hospital

This is going to be a very long and rambling entry, because I want to detail as much as I can for the benefit of anyone reading who might be in a similar situation.

The tl;dr version is that it's good news. Wasabi was captured and put in Possum Hospital. He was treated, his condition improved rapidly, and he has now been released.

Wasabi in Hospital - 9th March 2014

Sunday 2 March 2014

Update 2nd Mar 2014

Kiki and Oz are visiting regularly and in good health. Oz is back-riding, but occasionally ventures off a short way on his own.

Oz scratching himself - 26th Feb 2014

Saturday 15 February 2014

Oz's First Visit

Just a quick post to let everyone know that Kiki has brought Oz to the house back-riding for the first time. He seems inquisitive and not at all fearful and even nibbled on some food from Kiki's mouth.

Oz riding on Kiki's back 15th Feb 2014

Friday 14 February 2014

Update 14th Feb 2014 - First photo of Oz

First of all, just a note to say that I've put up a new blog - Game of Thorns - where I can write about non-possum things.

Here's the first (and, if we exclude snapshots taken by the box camera, so far only) photo I have of Kiki's baby Oz. Sorry it's a bit blurred, but I didn't want to get too close and scare the little one.

Oz, looking out of Box 7 - 12th Feb 2013

Sunday 2 February 2014

Update 2nd Feb 2014

Recently, two female ringtails were seen near the house, one with two back-riding babies and one with a slightly swollen pouch. It's always very difficult to tell who's who with ringtails, but these two look very much like Tilda and Ruby.

Tilda with back-riding babies 29th Jan 2014

Saturday 25 January 2014

Update 25th Jan 2014

There haven't been many visitors so far this year. Only Kiki, Amiri and Scruffles have been visiting, and even Amiri hasn't been seen for several days. Here's the latest photo I have of him, just after he was chased into a tree by Kiki.

Amiri waving with his back foot - 19th Jan 2014

Thursday 2 January 2014

Give Peace a Chance (a review of Possum Wars)

I've recently seen the documentary Possum Wars and I thought I'd post a review on it.

Curtain Square Park

Possum Wars mainly revolves around a conflict in Curtain* Square in Melbourne, where a "plague" of possums is said to be "destroying the trees".

[*That's "Curtain", as in window covering; nothing to do with former prime minister John Curtin.]

Before I get into discussing how the documentary deals with this, I think it's helpful to have some background on the actual situation in this park.

Curtain Square park is a very old park in central Melbourne. Trees were first planted there in 1876, with additional plantings in 1884. Some of these original trees are probably still standing today; in any case there are a number of trees in excess of 100 years old. Significant trees include Moreton Bay Figs, Elms, Oaks and Grey Poplars. There were also some Camphor Laurels which have now been removed. None of the trees are native to the area. Many of these trees are old enough to contain a large number of hollows big enough to accommodate possums. This is first-class possum accommodation and much better than ceilings and possums boxes.

One of the main determinants of the population density of possums in an area is the availability of nesting sites. Obviously other factors play a part, but the availability of nesting sites is critical. Possums can live for long periods with very little food, but can't survive for long without shelter during the day.

Anyway, the consequence of this is that the population density of possums in this park is considerably greater (supposedly around three times) than in other Melbourne parks.

The number of possums in the park fluctuates over the years. Surveys by Ecology Australia have recorded the following numbers:
  • Sept 1999 - 51
  • Dec 2000 - 50
  • Sept 2002 - 29
  • April 2004 - 29
  • Feb 2010 - 60
  • Jan 2011 - 60
So while at last count the population was at a high ebb, it is by no means exceptionally high nor is it increasing. [In fact, as of April 2013, there is a claim  that the population has fallen to around 46.]

The trees in the park had been coping perfectly well with the possums and were doing fine until January 2009. At that time, Victoria suffered its worse heatwave ever, culminating in the devastating Black Saturday bushfires. Melbourne experienced three consecutive days above 43°C, with the temperature peaking at over 45°C. Non-native trees in the city were heavily affected by the combination of extreme heat and the water restrictions that were in place at the time.

Many of the trees in the park were badly affected, with a total of six "historically significant" trees (probably elms) being of particular concern.

Reading the 2011 council report on the situation, it seems that the concern is that trees in the park consist almost exclusively of ones over 100 years old and ones under 10 years old, with virtually none in between. If the old trees are allowed to die off, it will be a long time before the young ones will be able to adequately replace them. Therefore, the idea is to protect the old trees for as long as possible.

Better irrigation, more extensive mulching, and control of Elm Leaf Beetle were all recommended as solutions, however, browsing by the large number of possums was also thought to be contributing to the problem and measures were proposed to control their impact.

Annoyingly, the actual level of damage being done to the trees by the possums was never quantified. Often it's the case that the presence of possums can be beneficial to trees since, despite eating buds and leaves, they also clean up parasitic insects and plants (e.g. mistletoes) living on the tree. Given that the trees had coped perfectly well with the presence of possums for the previous 130 years, I would have thought that it would have been a priority to determine whether the overall damage, if any, being done by the possums was significant enough to warrant the expensive and problematic control measures proposed. But there's no evidence that any thought went into the matter.

The council report suggested two "solutions"; reducing the numbers of possums through fertility control (or culling/euthanasia if that didn't work) and tree banding.

Incidentally, culling was not rejected "because it is illegal to kill possums", as was stated in the film. In Victoria it is in fact legal to euthanize "problem" possums under some circumstances, but the council preferred not to take this path, probably due to public outcry.

It seems to me that population control is a naive solution. Reducing the number of possums in the park (by whatever means) will simply result in more possums from surrounding areas moving in to the vacant luxury accommodation in the park. Banding is also difficult to make work in practice. The trees at risk form a canopy and possums can also leap large distances between trees if they need to. They are very smart at getting around obstacles like this. Whenever I've seen banded trees, they've more often than not had possums in them. If a possum gets into a banded tree, the band can prevent them from descending to ground level to eat grass and food scraps and instead they are forced to browse more heavily on the tree than they would otherwise.

The council ended up deciding against fertility control as being too expensive, and ruling out culling as being inhumane. Instead, in July 2012, they introduced a ban on feeding possums. This seems to be either a frustratingly counterproductive bureaucratic compromise or an act of spitefulness intended to punish activists who had been feeding the possums.

I don't want to digress into a discussion on the rights and wrongs of possum feeding (that can be the subject of another blog post), so lets just briefly say that even in the unlikely event that this ban could be effectively enforced, it would not reduce the possum population, but instead would force the possums to browse more heavily on the trees.

It would actually be more logical to argue for increased feeding of the possums in order to reduce their dependence on the trees.

But back to the documentary...

Unfortunately, Possum Wars pretty much ignores the facts above and follows the too-frequent path of trivialising the facts and exaggerating the conflict. It states as an uncontested truth that possums are "in plague proportions" and that "their voracious appetites are killing the park’s historic trees". It presents the conflict as being a simplistic case of "we have to get rid of the possums to save the trees" versus "we have to save the possums".

The local council came across as being only interested in the trees and callous towards the possums, whereas the activists who opposed them came across as being naive. Neither gave a convincing argument in favour of their position. The central question of whether the possums are in fact damaging the trees was never examined.

Am I being a bit harsh? Probably. It's a well-made documentary and much of it is extremely good. I understand that you have to simplify some things a bit and make some attempt to attract an audience. In fact, given that the majority of Australians are at an intellectual level that allows them to vote in frightening specimens like Abbott and Newman, I suppose I should feel lucky that they didn't feel obliged to advocate the outright slaughter of all possums.

Nevertheless, I'm disappointed by how the conflict in the park was presented, and by some other parts where people's prejudices against possums were aired uncritically. I don't say the film was actually anti-possum, but there were some good opportunities to challenge some myths and misunderstandings here, and these opportunities were to a large extent passed up.

Clarendon Children's Centre

The operators of this preschool were demanding that the possums in their ceiling be removed and were complaining of possum poos on the ground, which, it was claimed, had to be swept up daily "or else the kids might eat them". A woman was then shown sweeping what appeared to be mostly leaf-litter off a path.

It was difficult to follow the logic. Firstly, evicting the possums from the ceiling is not going to prevent the poos from appearing. Regardless of whether they can sleep in the roof or not, the possums are still going to come into the trees at night and poo. Even if you got rid of the resident possums altogether, others would simply come into the area from outside. Secondly, it's a bit inconsistent to be terrified of kids picking up possum poo from the path, when their playground includes a garden area where the kids have access to all sorts of dirt and debris that most likely contains far worse things than possum poo.

It seemed to be promoting the idea that possums are "dirty animals" and that it is necessary for our health to keep them away from human habitation. This is a myth that the documentary should have challenged, but didn't.

Paul the Possum Catcher, who appeared a number of times in the documentary, was shown installing his specially developed Possum Chute (a one-way door) in the roof of the child care centre. The film did a reasonable job of showing how a "possum catcher" operates and what they are and are not allowed to do.

One thing I found a little upsetting is that when Paul couldn't find a suitable tree outside to install a possum box in, he simply shrugged his shoulders and went ahead with evicting the possums anyway, despite the fact that denying the possums access to their home could quite easily amount to a death sentence. It wasn't made clear why a possum box couldn't simply be fastened to the outside of the building; how could that be any worse than putting one in a nearby tree? Or how about sticking one on a pole in the playground? There was a sturdily constructed cubby house there that a pole could be fastened to quite easily. You could even make a feature of it and put in a box camera that the kids could watch.

I suppose this sort of situation is understandable but regrettable. Some people are unable to cope with the idea of a possum in their ceiling and want it gone by any means necessary. If a professional possum catcher isn't there to remove it, it's most likely going to be killed or relocated (which amounts to the same thing) illegally. If there's no suitable tree to put a possum box in and the home-owner objects to having one elsewhere, what can you do?

To me the real solution comes down to changing people's attitudes. Native wildlife is something we have a moral responsibility to look after and also something that adds interest and enjoyment to the our lives. It is not something of no value that has to be gotten rid of as quickly (and cheaply) as possible the moment it threatens to cause us the slightest inconvenience. Possum Wars would have done a big service if it had gone with this theme rather than merely reporting people's prejudices uncritically.


There was a short segment on ringtails. There was some very good camera work here showing a pair of ringtails vigorously foraging in a tree (it appears that pieces of banana had been wedged into forks in the branches to entice them close to the camera) and also of a male ringtail trying to sleep in a nest during a noisy day. But there were a few puzzling bits of footage; a ringtail was being offered a corn chip (I'm surprised to see a ringtail eating something like this), then there was a cut to some uncharacteristically fuzzy footage of a brushtail eating a banana and then a cut back to a ringtail eating what appeared to be a slice of apple while being watched by a cat held in someone's arms uncomfortably close by. What was that all about?

Also, if you are going to show a cat with a ringtail, it's probably worth using the opportunity to point out that the two are deadly enemies. Apparently the death rate of ringtails from a cat bite is close to 100% if untreated; ringtails are unable to cope with the aggressive bacteria that live in the mouth of a cat. The message should have been: Don't do this! Keep your cat away from ringtails!

Possum Carers

Two possum carers, Jodie and Chris, were shown looking after baby brushtails. They made an effort to explain that a mother possum is much better at looking after her young than a human is; not only does she keep it cleaner and healthier but also she teaches it necessary skills. They were shown trying to re-unite a lost baby with its mother.

I found this quite interesting. The baby was making quite loud and piercing distress calls. I have only ever heard babies making a very soft and muted version of this call. Is it that the babies increase the volume of their call when they are more scared?

The cries attracted the attention of a possum - this looked to me like a male and might have been footage edited in from elsewhere - but it went away and the mother was never located.

The baby was then shown being given a poo-milkshake (which is exactly what the name suggests) to correct a stomach upset.

Subsequently, the baby, along with another it had been buddied up with, was taken off to a wildlife shelter for soft release.

Although it was not mentioned in the documentary, both babies (Beatle and Stix) successfully integrated into the wild and were happy and healthy a year later, with Beatle having a back-riding baby of her own. Their story is here.

I particularly liked this segment. It was educational and interesting and there were lots of cute baby possums. There was nothing said that I would disagree with.


Scamp was the offspring of "Mumsy" - a (supposedly) 14 year old brushtail living in Curtain Square Park. Scamp was apparently forced to leave the park and her struggles to find a home in the outside world were shown. At the end of the film her fate was left in doubt with a presumably staged scene with some gentle possum puffing noises being followed by threats from an irate householder to "do something about that possum".

This segment is much more impressive than it seems at first sight and I would love to have more details on how it was done.

How did they managed to follow Scamp around? I've never heard of people tracking brushtails through an urban environment before. Tracking possums in general is (as far as I am aware) a difficult thing to do. Tracking by eye is difficult and laborious because it means staying up all night and it's easy to lose sight of a possum in a tree; they can hide really well if they want to. And how are you going to follow a possum through random people's yards in the middle of the night? Implantable microchips have far too short a range for tracking purposes. Scientific studies use radio collars, but these are very bulky and certainly weren't used in this documentary.

I would think that if you could follow an urban/suburban brushtail around continuously, it would be a major achievement. The footage would be of significant scientific interest and the adventures of an average brushtail would probably be interesting enough for a documentary in their own right.

How did they even know Scamp had left in the first place? Did they know that possums occasionally left the park, and then kept continuous watch until one did? That sounds like a great deal of work. They even had footage which was implied to be that of Scamp in the process of leaving the park; it's hard to imagine how they managed to obtain that. It's not like Scamp could have told them in advance that she was going to leave the park on a certain night.

Even if there was a certain amount of luck and a touch of creative editing involved, it's still an impressive achievement.

The footage of Scamp running over roofs and moving around inside someone's ceiling space was also of extremely high quality, despite the challenging filming conditions. I wish I could do a fraction as well with my possum cameras.

Other Comments

The camera work was extremely good throughout, with the exception of a few very short clips apparently taken from YouTube. The score was integrated into the scenes very effectively. In general, it was all very professionally put together.

The program was narrated by John Doyle. He did his job perfectly well, but I found his voice very distracting because I kept associating it with his comedy alter-ego Roy Slaven. I kept thinking he was being ironic and at any moment he'd come out with some outrageous statement (in his normal dead-pan voice) that made it clear that he was making fun of the whole thing.

I think this is most likely just a personal issue with me. I've kept away from the mainstream media for a long time now. I haven't seen any of John Doyle's more recent work and remember him only from Roy & HG on Triple J in the 1980s.

Finally, I'd like to say that the title of the documentary is an unfortunate commentary on the state of our society and has the effect of framing the discussion in the wrong terms. Our interactions with wildlife should not be a "War". If we look at things that way, everyone loses.

What we need is a Possum Peace.