The time is right to catch sight of native animal youngsters in the coastal heath stretching from Phillip Island to Wilsons Promontory National Park. But for Dr Mark Antos, Parks Victoria’s manager of science and management effectiveness, the most precious residents are the trickiest to spot. “Nocturnal small mammals might be hard to see, but they’re pretty exciting from our perspective as they’re so rare,” he says.
Lucky visitors to Point Smythe, Cape Liptrap and the Wonthaggi Heathlands might spot the southern brown bandicoot – currently with mini bandicoots in tow – or the tiny but tenacious white-footed dunnart.
Easier to spy in scrubby areas along the coast are swamp wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos and wombats, many now accompanied by joeys. Dr Antos suggests watching out for South Gippsland’s unusual “latte-coloured” wombats near Inverloch and Cape Liptrap. The Prom Wildlife Walk yields sightings of roos, wallabies and emus, and Tidal River – the national park’s main camping and accommodation centre – attracts some plucky wombats.
In the opinion of Phillip Island Nature Parks’ communications manager Roland Pick, Churchill Island Heritage Farm on Churchill Island is currently at its cutest. “Could there be anything sweeter than a highland calf nuzzling into mum, a little lamb frolicking in the paddock with its siblings, or a line of ducklings learning how to swim?” he says.
The tiny island is connected to Phillip Island by the Samuel Amess Drive bridge. “Churchill Island is a wonderful place year round, but it truly celebrates new life during spring.”
Nesting is also underway in Phillip Island’s famous little penguin colony. “Fuzzy little penguin chicks usually start appearing any time from October onwards,” Roland says. “As they get to about six weeks of age, they start popping out of their burrows at night hoping to find mum or dad coming home with a feed. They don’t seem to mind whose mum or dad it is either, as they’re pretty keen to approach any adult penguin that looks like it has a full belly.” The Penguin Parade is currently being updated to improve the experience for both visitors and its pint-sized stars.