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Tim The Yowie Man: Call of the wild

This column recently asked if any readers were as dedicated to capturing our local wildlife on film as Brett Smith of Jindabyne who spent several months trying to snap a photo of a giant brown trout sighted in his dam (Moonbah Monster, 3 June). 

TYM 22d?An inquisitive lyrebird triggers Dave Reid?s trail camera near Corin Forest?

An inquisitive lyrebird triggers Dave Reid's trail camera near Corin Forest. Photo: Dave Reid

It turns out many amateur Canberra shutterbugs enjoy venturing into the bush, even during our bracing winters, in the hope of taking that elusive nature shot to frame and hang proudly on the lounge room wall.

Of these, arguably none are more devoted than Dave Reid of Chisholm. Although the born and bred Canberran often dons his gloves and beanie and waits with David Attenborough-like patience for his subject to loom large in his lens, he also uses a trail camera to increase his chances of snapping that prized photo.

However, Reid hasn't always has a passion for wildlife photography.

"It all began seven years when my doctor told me I had to walk more," reveals Reid, adding "I couldn't think of anything more boring than walking through the suburbs, so I got into nature photography."

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"We are so lucky in Canberra, there are hundreds of places you can hop in the car and after a short drive, walk into a magical patch of bush."

"To discover what critters are out there in the scrub when people aren't around," Reid now combines his love of bush walking and photography by surreptitiously setting up his $100 trail camera in remote locations around the bush capital.

"The first thing I noticed was just how many feral animals I was recording, mainly cats, foxes," bemoans Reid. But thankfully through persistence and "a good dose of sheer luck" Reid has filmed many of our native critters from curious kangaroos to mating wombats and has uploaded video compilations on his blog.

However, the one local native animal that has eluded him so far has been the lyrebird. "Sure, I've captured vision of lyrebirds and also audio, but never audio and video of the same bird performing," laments Reid.

In an attempt to rectify this gap in his audio-visual collection, and with lyrebirds being active at this time of year (during winter males entice females to their mating mounds), earlier this month, armed with both camera and audio recorder, Reid headed into the foothills of the Brindabellas.

Fortunate to join Reid on his mountain mission was your akubra clad columnist.

"If I can get a lyrebird to stand up next to my recorder and do a full display it'd be a wonderful thing," remarks Reid as we wander down an old forestry snigging trail near Corin Forest.

I'm glad we are following the old track, for although it clearly hasn't been used for several decades, any alternate route through the surrounding bush, thick with regrowth from the 2003 fires, and we'd need a machete.

Rediscovering the Canberra bush is a renaissance for Reid, who now in his 50s, remembers exploring the mountains as a youngster. "It wasn't even a national park back then," he recalls.

In less than ten minutes we stop. "This is it," explains Reid, looking at the coordinates on his smart phone, having carefully pre-picked out the location using Google Earth.

"It's as good a spot as anywhere," he adds, pointing to a wet gully, regarded as a favoured haunt of lyrebirds.

"I could set the camera up at Tidbinbilla where we know lyrebirds are, but that would take away the fun of the chase," grins Reid as he attaches his camera to the trunk of a large gum tree.

"I've set it to record a still shot and then 30 seconds of video each time it's triggered by movement," says Reid, before tying his audio recorder a little higher to the same tree. You can just see the microphone poking through a hole in an old lunchbox that Reid has crudely fashioned to protect it from the weather.

"Fingers crossed we get a lyrebird," declares Reid before pulling down a piece of bark that's limply hanging off an nearby peppermint gum "so it won't trigger the motion sensor," and crunching along the still frost-covered track back to our cars.

I'd almost forgotten about our stakeout until earlier this week I received an excited message from Reid, who had just collected his recording equipment and was back home scrutinising the footage.

"We got two swampies [swamp wallaby], a lyrebird, what I think may be a near pure dingo and possibly a wild quoll!" screamed his message.

Reid's excitement over the prospect of recording footage of a spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) is understandable, for ACT Parks and Conservation has only received a handful of reported sightings of the endangered marsupial in the ACT in the last few decades, and several of these have unfortunately been road kill.

At the time of writing Reid's grainy footage of the mystery critter captured at considerable distance, is being closely examined by experts to decisively determine if it is in fact a quoll, or the much more common ring-tailed possum.

In the meantime, buoyed by his possible find, Reid has returned his trail camera to the same site in the hope of obtaining further footage to help determine the creature's identity.

Oh, and as to the lyrebird calls, Reid is still sifting through hours of audio files. I'll keep you posted.

Despite the chill of winter, citizen science is alive and well in the bush capital.

Fact File:

Lyrebirds: Australia has two species of lyrebird – the alberts lyrebird (Menura alberti) found only in a small patch of south-east Queensland and the superb lyrebird ((Menura novaehollandiae) which is found up and down many parts of the Great Dividing Range (and Tasmania), including around Canberra. One of the more easily accessible places to see (and hear!) them is at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Located on the Tidbinbilla/Paddy's River Road, approximately 40 minutes' drive from the city. Entry fees apply. Open 7:30am - 6pm.

Tim's Tip: Before embarking on the 2 km (moderate) Lyrebird Trail at Tidbinbilla, ask at the Visitor Centre for the location of the latest sightings.

Did You Know? A group of lyrebirds is called a musket.

Lyrebird calls: If you'd rather listen to lyrebird calls from the comfort of your home, there are a number of lyrebirds CDs, including Lyrebirds of Tidbinbilla (1994). In fact, as early as the 1930s, recordings of lyrebird calls were released commercially, including Herschell's record titled "The Song of the Lyrebird".

Smile, you're on Dave's camera

A fox gets up close and personal with Dave Reid's s trail camera in the Gigerline Nature Reserve near Tharwa in 2012.

A fox gets up close and personal with Dave Reid's s trail camera in the Gigerline Nature Reserve near Tharwa in 2012. Photo: Dave Reid

One of Dave Reid's favourite photos captured on his trail camera is of a feral animal. "I had staked out a wombat burrow in Gigerline Nature Reserve, near Tharwa for six weeks," recalls Reid, who "ended up being quite surprised at the interaction between foxes and the burrows."

"This curious fox must have been in the right spot to hear the gentle click noise of the camera activating," says Reid, adding "as cute as it is, it has no place in the nature reserve."

The case of the Missing Dog

Can you see the basset hound in this rock near Pretty Beach?

Can you see the basset hound in this rock near Pretty Beach? Photo: Dave Moore

Several readers were left perplexed as to the location of the photo of the rock at Pretty Beach which resembles a Fred Basset dog and which was referred to in last week's Simulacra Corner (Dog Rock). The non-appearance of the comic hound in print copies of this column even prompted Mark Jones of Kambah to wonder if "he somehow grew legs and magically bounded out of the paper".

Thankfully local dog pounds won't need to be searched, for the missing mutt has been tracked down and appears today in all his glory. He does look like Fred, doesn't he?

A line in the bush

This column's high country historian Matthew Higgins reports that contrary to Ian Faulkner's claims of Pryors Hut being in the ACT (Where in the Snowies, July 15), that the much-loved shelter near Mt Gingera "is wholly within NSW". Higgins explains "the border passes through the 'turning circle' in front of the hut," adding "the border was confirmed by a licensed surveyor for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1997". A copy of the surveyor's plan is in the 1998 conservation plan for the hut which Higgins was a partner in writing.

WHERE IN CANBERRA?

Cryptic Clue: Tucked away in one of our lesser-known nature reserves.

Where in Canberra this week.

Where in Canberra this week. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

Degree of difficulty: Medium - Hard

Last week: Congratulations to Peter Tozer of Kaleen who was the first to correctly identify last week's photo (inset), taken by Phillip A Moses as the grave of Catherine Johanna Wortz at Kiandra Cemetery. Tozer, whose "many hours exploring graveyards of the Monaro while researching the family tree" clearly helped him recognise the lonely grave, beat a number of other readers to the prize, including Cynthia Richards of Giralang and Les Hetherington of Macarthur who is related to Wortz by marriage. "Her son, George Yan (her partner was Chinese miner, horse-breaker, storekeeper and finally confectioner, Tom Yan, aka Fook Ying) married my great-aunt, Clara Hetherington," reveals Hetherington, adding, the year of death on Wortz's gravestone is wrong – it should read 1912, not 1913."

Where in the Snowies this  week.

Where in the Snowies this week. Photo: Phillip A Moses

Further, according to Hetherington, an interesting sidelight to Catherine Wortz's story is that "she and her family, the Weidners, were from Schriesheim, Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany, and came to Australia on the same ship (the 'Victoria'), which arrived December 1854, as the Helm family of the well-known Murrumbateman winery".

How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to timtheyowieman@bigpond.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday July 22, 2017 with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.

CONTACT TIM: Email: timtheyowieman@bigpond.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.