Nest Box Monitoring - Burrumbuttock Squirrel Glider LAMP Project

A monitor showing two squirrel gliders inside a nest box. Janene Whitty

In 2019 as part of the Burrumbuttock Squirrel Glider LAMP project, Murray LLS implemented a program focused on installing 145 nest boxes on 13 sites (farms, roadsides and public land) to answer the question “Does the installation of nest boxes in areas with low numbers of natural nesting sites result in Squirrel Glider occupancy?”

Monitoring of the nest boxes using a pole camera in Autumn and Spring each year since installation has been undertaken, and results have shown that the nest boxes do result in Squirrel Glider occupancy. Paula Sheehan (Landcare Coordinator) and Lou Bull (Project Officer Squirrel Glider LAMP and Petaurus Education Group) have coordinated the monitoring and have had many volunteers helping and experiencing the thrill of finding a Squirrel Glider curled up in a nest box.

With each monitoring round, there are new and exciting observations. Most nest boxes show evidence of Squirrel Glider use (determined by the presence of gum leaves that the Squirrel Gliders bring in to make a nest). Yet, two sites have consistently shown no use the whole time. We are finding Squirrel Gliders quickly occupying several new boxes installed in addition to the boxes already put up – it’s interesting because these new boxes are different in that they are insulated. Yet, other existing boxes haven’t been used. This Autumn, there were a couple more rats! Even more fascinating were 2 nest boxes full of spiders. Apparently, there is a unique species of spider that gathers like this.

Initially, some sites had high European honey bee occupancy –but not all. The recent Spring 2022 and Autumn 2023 monitoring has shown very little continued European honeybee activity. In fact, we have found Squirrel Gliders occupying nest boxes abandoned by the bees and full of old honeycomb. Finally, generally, we are more likely to find nest boxes with young when we check in the Spring; however, this Autumn, we found one family with 2 young. A late surprise.

Now that we know the nest boxes are being used and it appears the Squirrel Gliders are staying in these sites (an indicator of good habitat quality), it becomes vital that the nest boxes are maintained. Until the trees in which these nest boxes are located are old enough to form natural hollows, the use of nest boxes will be vital for the local Squirrel Glider population to thrive and persist. In the short term, these nest boxes have meant the local population of Squirrel Gliders can access new home ranges, food resources and habitat - contributing to their long-term future in this landscape.

Paula Sheehan uses the pole camera to look into a nest box. Janene Whitty Local farmer Janene Whitty (L) and Claire Scott manager RennyLea Angus (R) helping monitor the Squirrel Glider nest boxes at Walla Walla

Above left: Paula Sheehan uses the pole camera to look in a nest box (Photo: Janene Whitty)

Above right: Janene Whitty (L) and Claire Scott (R) helping monitor the squirrel glider nest boxes.

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