Here in Australia’s wilds, I seem to be a possum magnet. On a pristine-calm night in the Timmallallie National Park near Baradine, New South Wales, two different possums greeted, or rather threatened, me with growls and barks as they stumbled upon my camp in the dark of the night.
My first visitor appeared around 2am … a Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), the largest of the Down Under possum clan, weighing up to 10 pounds (4.5kg). His loud, gruff growls shook me from sleep as I laid there on my tarp, wondering if I should be concerned:
Growls of a Brushtail Possum, given around 2am in Timmallallie National Park near Baradine, New South Wales. Recorded by Lang Elliott, 14 October 2012.
The Brushtail is nocturnal and semi-arboreal. Listen carefully, you can hear him running on the ground at the beginning of the recording. My guess is that he growled when he suddenly caught my scent, or else saw my tent looming in the darkness (Carl Gerhardt, my traveling companion, slept a few hundred feet away and he too had one growl at him in the night).
My second visitor, I believe, was a Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis), which measures around 8 inches (200mm) from the tip of the head to the base of the tail. He probably glided to a tree near my tent and then voiced his disapproval with measured yaps or barks (frog sounds can be heard in the background):
Barks or yips of a Squirrel Glider, given around 3am in Timmallallie National Park near Baradine, New South Wales. Recorded by Lang Elliott, 14 October 2012.
It is possible that the glider was the somewhat smaller Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps), but the pitch sounds too low, leading my biologist friend Simon Clulow to identify them as the calls of the Squirrel Glider. About a week before in the Watagan Mountains near Newcastle, I believe I snagged the Sugar Glider’s higher-pitched calls:
Barks or yips of a Sugar Glider, given around 1am in the Watagan Mountains near Newcastle, New South Wales. Recorded by Lang Elliott, 8 October 2012.
What fun it is to sleep out in the forest and know that possums are about and prone to hollering. In North America, “holler” is how mountain folks in the Southeast pronounce “hollow,” referring to a small forested valley with a creek. So “Possum Holler” actually means “Possum Hollow.” But here in Australia, possums really do “holler,” especially if you dare to sleep on the ground in the forest at night.
NOTE: If any of you Aussies beg to differ with my identifications, please let me know. Even the folks here at Newcastle University could be wrong.