Possum Spotlighting Trail Guide

Possum Spotlighting Trail Guide
Western ringtail possums

and Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands

July 2023

We spent a few hours on trails near the Sabina Nature reserve (specifically the lower Vasse-wonnerup Estuary) while passing by Busselton, WA. In the night, we did the possum spotlighting trail. And in the morning, we did some short trails around the Lower Vasse Estuary part of Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands and also the Malbup bird hide. The Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands is an absolute bird heaven as there were just SO MANY BIRDS EVERYWHERE.  We saw rabbits, eagles, laughing kookaburras, all sorts of water birds, kangaroos, tons of parakeets and other cockatoos.

Possum Spotlighting Trail Guide

The Possum spotlighing trail is at Layman Rd, Wonnerup WA 6280, Australia (you can look up google maps for the Gmaps listing) and there is a carpark. There are large clear signs for the trail head and it is a loop ~2km loop. The whole trail is easy to follow and there are reflective markers for the narrower parts of the trail.  We spent about 1 hour completing the trail as we walked really slowly while trying to spot wildlife with our small torch lights.

western ringtail possum

Western Ringtail possums found on a tree

We spotted a few Western Ringtail possums. Sadly we didn't spot any Brushtail possums, so we definitely have to visit this place again sometime in the future. Hearsay that the Western Ringtail possums are the more common of the two types of possums found in this forest.

possum eye shine

^Like Koalas, they have 2 opposable thumbs for climbing

The forest was very much alive with the frog croaking symphonies. The unique call of the Boobook Owl ("booo-buk!") was also constantly heard.

We also found the Tawny frogmouth who is crowned "The most instagrammable bird" by German reseachers as for its "resting bird face" or "the most unfortunate- looking bird".

tawny frogmouth tuart forest

It is much more adorable and unfortunate-looking/grumpy in real life but I didn't really get good shots of this bird.

tawny frogmouth

Please enjoy this blurry shot of the tawny frogmouth staring back at us

Tips for the Possum Spotlighting Trail:

  • This trail is best done at night. Possum are nocturnal and sleep in the day, possibly inside hollow tree trunk. At night, they are likely to be amongst the leaves and branches on peppermint or eucalyptus trees. There could be also some foraging on the ground.
  • Do not use flash photography. This is the advisory many aquariums, zoos and night animal parks give. The sudden contrast and intensity would hurt the light-sensitive eyes of nocturnal creatures. Also, do not shine the torch at their eyes for too long and possibly reduce torch intensity.
  • Get torch lights (at least strong enough to shine for 2-3 meters distance) and look for eye shine or a white belly amongst the leaves and branches. We didn't have to look beyond 3 meters above the ground for possums and birds. The tawny frogmouth can pose to look like a tree branch and can be hard to spot
possum eye shine

^ Example of eye-shine (another western ringtail possum)

possum eye shine

^White Underbelly and their naked tail which can be used to grab nesting material and balancing

  • Be very quiet and stay on the trail (and not wander off) as there are many fallen branches hidden by tall weeds which you can trip on and also there are re-vegetation patches to avoid stepping on. There are easy-to-follow reflective markers when the trail becomes narrower.
  • DRIVE slowly and carefully at night around the roads in this area. There could be possums on the road. There were rabbits dashing in front of our car.
  • Look out for the white possum information boards along the trail for fun possum facts (They will not be included in this post because no spoilers!)
  • There could be mosquitos so bring insect repellent (But we were covered up in clothes as it was the winter, there was no need to)

This amazing post by Jimmy Lamb  gives excellent information on the wildlife to be found in the Possum Spotlighting trail. Also, I saw this interesting technique of using a thermal camera to spot possums on this trail. #TeKN0L0GY

Vasse-wonnerup wetlands is a bird heaven

In the early morning, we did some trails around the Lower Vasse Estuary part of Vasse-wonnerup wetlands and took a short drive to visit the Malbup Bird Hide (it is near the possum spotlighting trail) and there were SO MANY birds everywhere. Came across many laughing Kookuburras, parakeets, cockatoos, water birds of all sorts, song birds, plus many kangaroos (some with joeys). The bird sounds were the loudest in the early morning and before dusk.

wonnerup birds

Some of the many birds I met at the Lower Vasse Estuary

Malbup bird hide

Malbup bird hide has many small windows to stalk birds secretly