Photo of the Month: A fantastic feather ‘tale’

When my son Dale got home from his seasonal (DELWP) fire crew work out in the south-western Victorian bush the other day, it was just like any other day… I was still plugging away with work, I heard him walk by my office, pull off his boots and head inside. Just the normal routine.

But then a short while later I heard a great stampede of feet and he burst into my room, as he remembered something he was itching to show me. He said, “dad, your not going to believe what I saw in the bush today, which I just remembered!”

So I said, “try me?”. After all, I have seen a lot of different stuff now over the years.

His reply: “a feathertail glider – not just one but two!”

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, as this is a beautiful, tiny species of gliding possum that I have not had the chance to see myself yet in the wild, my first question was, “did you get any photos?”

When he replied in the affirmative, I knew I would have to write this blog!

The feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus) is more common up and down the east coast, but over here in the cross-border zone between SA and Victoria, we are right on the edge of its range – a range that has basically contracted to the border due to the rates of native vegetation clearance on the South Australian side (SA records are mostly from long ago).

The handful of official records of the Feathertail Glider in the far south west of Victoria, noting that the SA records shown are old – from 1946 and 1960.

Dale had been doing routine track maintenance with the DELWP crew out in the bush between Dartmoor and Heywood, when the crew saw something inside piece of stringybark that was hollow in the middle, that had been trimmed.

A pair of feathertails in the hand is priceless in the bush! Photo: Dale Bachmann.

Fortunately, they are not hard to handle and Dale managed to grab them for a temporary inspection. After taking a few photos, and admiring the silky smooth fur of this remarkable, mouse-sized gliding possum, as well as its specially fur-lined “feathertail” – which it uses as a rudder to direct its flight – Dale let them go back in the bush where they belong… and walked away with a great story to tell that gives him one up on his dad! I must say I was pretty excited for him too… absolutely chuffed actually. This is just not something you come across every day.

So don’t forget to keep your eyes open in the bush! And if you do come across something special, feel free to take a photo and send me the story – you never know, it might end up in the NGT newsletter one day!

A new record of the Feathertail Glider in far south-west Victoria. Photo: Dale Bachmann.
Mark Bachmann