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ginger april 2005 - click to enlarge


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November 2004: I (Xesce) was on the balcony taking photos of myself when I heard a lot of crashing about in the trees. A possum was eating the seedbell that had been put up to attract parrots. The possum was not camera shy. I took photos of the possum and the possum did not abandon the seedbell. (To see these photos: young Ginger.)

Over the next month, the rosellas (parrots) visit less, and it may be because the possum has left some kind of scent behind. Eventually, we decided against putting up any more seedbells.

One night, GK tried to hand the possum a piece of tomato, and was scratched for his efforts. For a little while thereafter, he wore a thick gardening glove.

December 2004: GK made a gingerbread house for me for xmas, and put it on a table near an open window. Outside, the possum was standing on its hind legs on the balcony railing, sniffing plaintively in the direction of the gingerbread house. (We referred to her as 'the possum' for a long time, but eventually decided to call her Ginger.)

Ginger seemed very pleased to receive gingerbread. It wasn't long until both GK and I were comfortable handfeeding and petting her. My observation was that Ginger wasn't likely to scratch if she didn't have to lose her balance to reach for food - it was best to bring the food close to her.

ginger december 2004 - click to enlarge

New Year's Eve 2004: Ginger made a surprise visit less than half an hour before midnight.

January 2005: Ginger is now a regular visitor. Rain doesn't deter her. She doesn't visit every night, or at the same time every night, and she doesn't come from the same direction every night, but she comes regularly. She has pulled some pranks, like overturning flower pots to attract attention, and eating GK's chilli plants when no one comes out to greet her, but these pranks stop when we start looking for her arrival every night. We become conscious that if she visits regularly, we should take more care about what we feed her and how much we feed her. Over the next months, Ginger shows us new tricks, like hanging upside down from the roof, and pulling my hair to get my attention when I am not feeding her grapes quickly enough. She has also come into the house and looked around, and tried to climb GK as if he were a tree. If Ginger is confronted with a choice to eat something placed on the balcony or balcony railing, or to take something from someone's hand, she will always opt to be handfed.

To view Ginger hanging upside down, see possum tricks.

Early April 2005: When Ginger is hanging upside down from the roof, we notice that she has a new rusty colour around the opening of her pouch, and wonder if it means that there is a baby in the pouch. We read on the Internet that possums scent-mark their pouches when they have a joey in the pouch. [To see the various stages of possum motherhood, click here and to see different methods of feeding Cocoa, click here.] By this time, it is rare that Ginger doesn't visit at least once per night.

[I'm not sure why possum pouches have a vertical rather than horizontal opening. (It may relate to the way possums climb through trees - the vertical opening may be less likely to snag on twigs.) At the beginning, Cocoa was probably only .2 of a gram or so.]

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I realize that I am attached to Ginger. As for Ginger, she comes for the food, more than anything else. GK calls her a 'stomach on legs', but I think he is attached to her, too. She doesn't seem highly sentimental or affectionate, although sometimes in her playfulness it seems that she is at least used to us and comfortable with us. There is a continuity - she continues to visit us regularly, and so we are definitely an ongoing part of her life. And because she is the way she is, she makes an ideal pet for me in my circumstances. She's not dependent on me in a psychological sense. She can feed herself. She can come and go as she pleases. So, for now, I can enjoy her presence, not have to deal with it all the time or do too much for her, and I will know that she will be ok if I'm no longer around. (Also, I usually keep possum hours - staying up nights and sleeping days.)

Ginger is probably cleaner and smells better than most dogs. She has a very fresh (appealing) scent that is probably eucalyptus-related (she doesn't have a medicinal scent - I don't know how to describe it except to say that it is a complex scent, and 'fresh' and pleasant to me). Sometimes she smells a bit like a campfire, which seems to suggest she may sleep in burnt-out old trees at least some of the time.

June 2005: The bulge grows, and at times we get glimpses of a white, hairless mass inside the pouch. Also, little claws and eventually other limbs protrude from the pouch.

Mid-July 2005: A camera is installed in the nesting box. We see that Cocoa already leaves the pouch when in the nesting box. She often shivers and dives back into the warmth of the pouch. She is a bit bewildered, shaky and wobbly, but at times seems quite brave and to have a lot of energy. Her first attempts at back-riding don't last long - she isn't strong enough to hold on and falls off.

Mid-August 2005: While Ginger sleeps, Cocoa is often very active, playing with leaves, jumping on her mother, biting her mother's ears and trying to climb the wire mesh. She seems more coordinated, and no longer falls off her mother's back when she tries to cling. Ginger seems to be an incredibly tolerant mother.

We notice that the nesting box is very clean. GK watches Ginger when she leaves the box for the night, and sees that she urinates very soon after exiting the box.

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Ginger and Cocoa do not spend every night in the nesting box. The pattern is odd, and we do not as yet have enough data to confirm a definite pattern. Sometimes they are in the nesting box every other night, sometimes they are in the box 4 nights in a row or out for 4 nights in a row, or a different number of nights, and it all changes a lot, but it looks like they currently spend approximately half the time sleeping in the nesting box. We don't know the location of another nest or nests.

ginger and cocoa august 2005 - click to enlarge

14/08/05: Cocoa is now a back-riding possum when leaving the nest. Later in the evening when the two visit us, Cocoa is tired and goes back into the pouch. Cocoa's fur is thick and soft, and we have touched it. She looks like a miniature possum, but her tail is not yet big and fluffy. She seems to have a lot of energy and still jumps around the nesting box a lot while her mother sleeps.

21/08/05: I handfed Cocoa for the first time tonight. Ginger was eating gingerbread, and Cocoa had squirmed around such that her head was under her mother's, and she was trying to nibble at the gingerbread. When I held out a tiny piece of gingerbread to her, she wasn't afraid of me, but instead of taking it from me she nibbled while I held onto it. I'm not sure how well-developed her teeth are yet, or how healthy gingerbread is for her at this stage, but she was very attracted to the smell of it, and ate a few crumbs.

It is now difficult for Ginger to get as close to the house (and us) as she used to because the trees here have become more sparse and branches are brittle (it is winter in Australia), plus, she has to consider her increased body weight and the safety of her sprog.

Cocoa is jumping around less in the nesting box lately. The more back-riding she does at night, the more her sleeping schedule begins to resemble that of a regular possum.

05/09/05: Cocoa takes little pieces of apple, banana and gingerbread from me, and lets me pet her while she is eating. After eating gingerbread, she doesn't want any more apple or anything else. She sniffs my hand, as if looking for more gingerbread. She didn't take tomato or pear when offered the day before, but would take apple. She is taking things more decisively than in the beginning. Later, Ginger was in the tree, and Cocoa was on the edge of the roof, pacing and looking a bit like she might fall off. However, she leapt into the tree (this is the first time I've seen her do this) and flailed about a bit trying to right herself, but she was soon fine, and didn't appear at all scared. She then climbed onto Ginger's back. I took some photos right after this leap. See fuzzy face.

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Ginger and Cocoa frequently approach from the roof (although they sometimes approach from the tree closest to the balcony). Food is reached up to them on the roof. Cocoa sometimes drops hers in the rain gutters, or actually falls into the gutters.

cocoa september 2005 - click to enlarge

06/09/05: Ginger pounced on a male possum who has been hanging around lately. We wondered if he was Cocoa's father, and if male possums sometimes hang around to help protect their young when they first start coming out of the pouch. A few times we've seen him seeming to follow Ginger and Cocoa around - he's usually lower in a tree than they are. (This was when Cocoa still spent most of the time in the pouch.) Tonight, the male had grabbed a bit of apple I'd left in the tree closest to the balcony. Later, when he came back, I reached out a piece of apple to him to see if he'd take it from me, but he didn't come close enough. Not long after that, Ginger jumped on him. It could be that she was defending a food tree (me), asserting dominance, not wanting another possum to have her tasty food. If there was a fight, it didn't sound violent. I didn't hear any of the hiss/bark/cough sounds. All I heard was trees rustling and crackling under them, and it didn't go on long. We also wonder if maybe the male is trying to mate with Ginger again, but she is trying to put him off.

Cocoa was left on her own for a while tonight when Ginger came to visit me. I could see Cocoa trying to make her way over, but the leap was too big, and she kept trying out every branch she could to see if it would reach to where her mother was. A few times she made little distressed noises like she made when she fell off the roof onto the balcony. Later, I saw Ginger with Cocoa on her back again.

09/09/05: Tonight the male possum accepted a piece of apple from GK's hand for the first time. He approached from the roof.

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13/09/05: I saw Ginger chase off a larger female possum, while leaving Cocoa up high in a tree. Cocoa tried to make threatening possum noises. Cocoa doesn't always ride on her mother's back now. We have noticed that Ginger often leaves her on her own for as much as an hour at at time or more, and sometimes prefers to have Cocoa follow her rather than back-ride. This evening I also saw Cocoa and Ginger standing up on their hind legs like grizzly bears and scrabble at each other's faces a bit. It didn't seem fierce, but it looks like changes are occurring in their relationship, and that Cocoa is moving toward independence.

16/09/05: Ginger is now back to her pre-pregnancy size and general appearance. Ginger and Cocoa haven't been in the nesting box much this month. When Ginger visits on her own, she spends more time with us, and the overall patterns are similar to what they were before Cocoa started back-riding.

26/09/05: Possums apparently like the smallest hole they can squeeze into for nesting boxes. Lately, no possums have been sleeping in the nesting box. GK made the hole slightly larger than recommended. It's possible that Ginger preferred the nesting box when she was carrying Cocoa in the pouch. GK may try to decrease the size of the hole. However, Ginger may use that particular box again in the future if she has another baby. GK might eventually make another brushtail box.

We have spotted Blackbeard nibbling buds at times when Ginger is not around. He approaches quietly, cautiously. We haven't seen Cocoa for at least a week.

30/09/05: Last night I witnessed a ringtail eating a piece of apple I had left in a tree. Still no sign of Cocoa. Later: tonight I handfed Blackbeard for the first time. He approached from the roof - hung over the edge. At the same time, I was feeding Ginger (she was in a tree). She didn't seem agitated by Blackbeard's presence. Blackbeard ate a few pieces of apple, a small piece of banana and a small piece of gingerbread.

cocoa reaching for chocolate cake october 2005 - click to enlarge

06/10/05: Cocoa visited! at approximately 3 am. She was on one of the wire cages that covers plants (to protect them from possums) when I opened the door. I fed her apple and gingerbread (because I wanted to encourage her to come back). She was in a playful mood and ran around on the balcony, and seemed to want to play with me. She came into the house momentarily and looked around, sniffing things. Later, when she left the balcony, Ginger attacked her. Cocoa squealed in fright, and Ginger sounded fierce, but afterward Cocoa seemed uninjured. She disappeared off around the side of the house. Blackbeard is now a semi-regular visitor. (Ginger has not attacked him recently.)

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13/10/05: Cocoa has been here 5 times in the last week. The first couple of nights her fur was soft and clean. Then one night I noticed that her fur felt crusty. On closer examination a couple of nights later, GK discovered that she was partially covered in some kind of oil or tar-related substance. We can't figure out where she would have gotten into something like that. It might be toxic or harmful to Cocoa if she were to try to clean herself. Rain won't wash it away. We didn't want to attempt to use any kind of detergent or other product that might damage Cocoa's skin - plus, it would be difficult to get her to sit still for a bath. GK trimmed off what he could with scissors, and I also managed to trim a bit off later.

One night when startled, Cocoa ran and then leaped frantically into the frangipani, not realizing that she was jumping onto an old, dried out portion. The branch she landed on broke under her, and she fell a considerable distance onto the patio below. She looked disoriented and shaken, but got up and started climbing back toward the balcony.

Cocoa and Blackbeard don't seem to be as adventurous as Ginger when it comes to trying new foods [added later: Actually, Cocoa is adventurous when it comes to food, but will not eat as wide a range of food as Ginger]. One night, all three of them visited at the same time. Ginger chased Blackbeard away a couple of times, but surprisingly for quite a time all three possums seemed able to cope with having the others present.

29/10/05: We have new video cameras (possumcams) now, but they are not yet set up. A few videos will be added to this site today, but it may be a long while until more are ready.

We see a lot of Cocoa. She seems healthy. Her gait is different to Ginger's. When she runs or climbs, she often looks like she is bounding or hopping like a little bunny, whereas Ginger has a more athletic stalking kind of gait. Cocoa can be erratic in her movements, and leaps spastically at times. When food is offered to her, she sometimes finds it amusing to nibble a finger. She hasn't tried to pull my hair, but she has found cloth-covered buttons on my shirt intriguing, and has attempted to bite them off. She has also ventured tentatively into the house on a few occasions to look around.

All three possums will walk over food placed on the ground before them to get to food that they can see in a human hand. Blackbeard is the most shy of the three, and the two females easily scare him away. Blackbeard is more frightened of Ginger than Cocoa appears to be. Cocoa has on a few occasions tried to provoke Ginger's wrath. For example... Cocoa doesn't usually eat tomatoes, but Ginger likes tomatoes very much. On one occasion when Ginger was glaring at her from the roof, Cocoa was in Ginger's favourite tree insolently eating a piece of tomato that had been left there for Ginger. She ate very deliberately and did not seem to be intimidated. However, most of the time Cocoa approaches from one particular side of the house, or hangs out on the roof or on the balcony when she visits us. Ginger seems accepting enough, unless she is on the roof at the same time as Cocoa, in which case she will chase Cocoa away. We noticed a large wound on one of Cocoa's legs (healing well) that might have been inflicted by Ginger some time ago.

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None of the possums have been sleeping days in the nesting box, but a few times during heavy rains at night Ginger has sheltered in it. She usually curls up and sleeps for a couple of hours and then leaves. There is currently a very large pile of leaves in the box.

click to see white baby possum tail in pouch (november 2005)

It is possible that Ginger has a new joey in her pouch.

21/11/05: Ginger definitely has another baby in her pouch. We estimate that at around Xmas time we may be able to see this new one in the nesting box. So far, we have had glimpses of white, furless baby possum, and have seen it moving around or kicking inside the pouch. The photo of Ginger eating nachos with salsa can be clicked to enlarge. (A bit of baby possum tail can be seen in the pouch.)

Cocoa found her way into the tar again, and needed another haircut. She now looks scruffy because her fur, once long and silky, is patchy. Perhaps to other possums she looks punk, or like a bad seed possum. There is no mistaking that she is a carnivore, and continued experience shows that she is very fond of hot (spicy) food, preferring it to almost anything else. She amused GK recently by jumping around in dry leaves on the ground.

Blackbeard has now decided that when he visits, he only wants to eat 'fun' foods. It could be that on his own he can find sufficient quantities of 'healthy' food, and that when he comes to see us, it's only for dessert, or for something he can't find on his own, egs, gingerbread, nachos, chocolate, etc. He gets much less food than the other two. When he discovers that there will be no more fun food offered, he will sometimes eventually decide to take small pieces of fruit.

23/11/05: Numerous changes have been uploaded to the Possum TV site today. GK did the flash animation. He doesn't have a lot of experience with flash animation, and is not sure how it will work with different browsers, or if a non-flash image will display if the flash animation doesn't work. The old main page is here. [I will probably continue to experiment with the look of the main page when possible.] Regarding my changes overall: am I making a mess, or making things more complicated than they need be? Should I have left some things unchanged? I probably won't be able to avoid fiddling with the site from time to time.

28/11/05: Considerable rain in recent months has resulted in everything becoming more lush and green. The possums are eating less people food, and visiting less frequently. It seems likely that they are filling up on the fresh leaves and flowers that are currently in abundance.

I had forgotten to mention about a noise Cocoa makes that is like the hissing of a cat. The other possums make rattling, textured noises, but Cocoa occasionally makes just a plain hiss. In October, (the second time I saw her after not seeing her for 3 weeks), I called GK on his cell phone to let him know she was there. When I held up the phone to her, she hissed into it (or, probably at it.)

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The area above one of Blackbeard's eyes has been scratched/wounded. Also, there is a small wound on the inside of his tail. Ginger had a larger one on her tail some months ago that healed well.

well-developed baby claws - click to enlarge (december 2005)

When a hand is placed near the opening of Ginger's pouch intense heat can be felt coming from it. Ginger's baby appears to be very active in the pouch at present.

20/12/05: A nest of large ants was in the main nestbox - perhaps discouraging Ginger. GK cleaned it out. Ginger's baby is still white, but may be starting to develop a bit of fur. It probably won't be too much longer until it comes out of the pouch, at least during the hours they are nesting.

22/12/05: To see Ginger's baby's eyeball, click here. Other baby possum parts: leg and tip of tail, body, more leg and more leg again.

28/12/05: For the last two days, Ginger has been squishing herself and her baby into the ringtail nesting box. We have a camera in there, and will probably eventually convert the footage. The two are quite cramped, and Ginger often adopts a posture that looks like an example of possum pilates - her legs are in the air, and she stretches her hands toward her toes or grasps her ankles. The weather has been quite hot and humid here, and Ginger often appears dazed or uncomfortable. The baby, which we have named Kulfi, comes out of the pouch although is not as developed as Cocoa was when we first observed Cocoa coming out. Kulfi already tries to cling like a back- riding possum, performs grooming activities, scrabbles at Ginger's face and bites her ears. Kulfi also puts hir (we don't yet know Kulfi's sex) head right into Ginger's ear, which seems to suggest that the ear reminds baby possums of the pouch.

Cocoa recently bit GK, and it took him a while to forgive her. He was trying to feed her a grape, and she may have had some trouble grabbing it properly. Both Ginger and Blackbeard often take grapes right into their mouths, but Cocoa's mouth is still small in comparison. It could be that she lost balance or felt unsure as to what to do. When she comes into the house, she will sometimes nibble toes (it is not painful, and she has not broken the skin). I think it's possible that she does this because we are so tall that she either finds us intimidating, or wants to attract attention (or food) down to her level. Ginger nibbled toes a couple of times (not painfully, or enough to break the skin), but eventually opted to climb us.

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gingerbread nestbox - click to enlarge (december 2005)

This year for Xmas, GK made a gingerbread possum nesting box. To see last year's gingerbread house (also made by GK), click here.

Later: After dark, GK and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood, and GK played Santa to all the possums, leaving little bits of gingerbread in the crooks of trees.

31/12/05: Last night GK put the gingerbread nestbox on the floor near the screen door that leads to the balcony, to see if it would attract any possums. Cocoa entered through the regular door. She went up to the gingerbread nestbox, nibbled one ear and the nose of the little possum, chewed off one of the eyes and then absconded with one of the arms. Also, later last night Cocoa climbed GK in the house.

[Blackbeard and Cocoa were here at midnight.]

02/01/06: As I write, possum tv is on in the background - live possum action. Ginger and Kulfi are again in the ringtail nestbox. We are not sure why Ginger wants to be in such a cramped space. It has been very hot lately and is probably extremely hot in the box. The camera is close to Ginger and doesn't focus properly, and often Ginger's tail or one of her feet obscures the view.

Just a couple of moments ago, Kulfi was out of the pouch in one corner of the nestbox while Ginger slept. Ginger moved in her sleep (or lethargic state) such that she squashed Kulfi, which caused Kulfi to hiss repeatedly.

We have observed Kulfi scratching at the walls of the nestbox - the little claws make a pronounced noise.

Last night Ginger came into the house for the first time in a long time. She climbed GK. She looked like she wanted to climb me, but I was wearing very thin/flimsy pajama pants and was nervous that her claws would dig into my leg. Ginger broke off a large piece of the gingerbread nestbox - half of one wall - and ran off, but the piece broke as she ran such that she ended up with a reasonable sized possum cookie. During Ginger's visit, Kulfi's head poked out of the pouch. When only the hands were outside the pouch, Kulfi didn't mind that GK held a little hand - the hand did not flinch and was not retracted.

It is now evident that Kulfi is a boy.

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06/01/06: Blackbeard has been plucked. Only a small puncture can be observed, but the bald patch is an example of a common result of possum wars. One of Cocoa's eyes looks hurt or infected. It is swollen and watering. Ginger currently appears to be wound-free.

Cocoa has been coming into the house frequently, and we actually have to coax her to leave.

Cocoa the Cannibal: The little gingerbread possum sadly did not survive Cocoa's second attack, which culminated in a violent decapitation. Cocoa ran off to devour her trophy in the wild outdoors.

Cocoa and Blackbeard glare at each other - click to enlarge (january 2006)

I have only recently become aware that in older browsers, the possum tv navigation column may not display according to the proper measurements, the flash animation may not work and that the default photo may not display if the flash animation does not work. It will take some time to see if there are solutions to these problems.

13/01/06: On the advice of a vet, GK flushed Cocoa's eye with body temperature tea. She was annoyed, but not annoyed enough to leave the house as she was being fed gingerbread. There was a noticeable improvement immediately - by the next night the weeping had stopped. It took a few more days for the swelling to go down. (The swelling may have been caused by Cocoa rubbing or scratching at her eye when it first became infected.)

No sooner had Cocoa's eye infection cleared up than she appeared with her back end including tail covered in something black. It wasn't tar this time. It wasn't sticky, and it didn't have much of an odour - she might have fallen into the charcoal in someone's bbq. She was wet in the areas that were blackened. The next night, all the black stuff was gone, so presumably vigorous grooming was enough for that particular problem.

Ginger has not been around for about a week now. We wonder if maybe it has something to do with Kulfi being a male - maybe Blackbeard would instinctually attack him as he is in Blackbeard's territory. Perhaps in time we will figure this out.

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20/01/06: Still no sign of Ginger and Kulfi. We are hoping that Ginger has taken off somewhere in order to protect Kulfi until he is big enough to protect himself, or possibly to help him to find his own territory.

Biting the hand that feeds: Cocoa recently bit me. She was eating a piece of dried up apple core and I didn't want to wait until she was finished eating to hand her a small piece of pizza crust. My idea was to stick the crust on the branch Cocoa was on, lower down. Cocoa grabbed my hand with both of hers, and bit down fairly savagely, not even trying to grab the pizza crust. She left 3 little scratch marks on my finger, and just a dental imprint that disappeared after a while. I had remained relaxed, and she had let go fairly quickly. We didn't feed her anything further that night. It was something we had agreed on previously. I'm not sure if Cocoa would be able to make the connection, but I didn't have any other ideas.

At some point I will try to put together a kind of possum glossary, as we have various terms to describe aspects of possum behaviour and life. For example, a sponge possum is a possum thoroughly soaked by heavy rains. Cocoa is often referred to as a werepossum. GK came up with both of these terms, although we have since seen other people refer to werepossums online. Scrabbling refers to the way possums grab branches and pull them closer to help them climb through the trees. Sometimes they flail around a bit, resembling sprogs with water wings. Grabble is another word used to describe their actions, and grabbing hands (that "grab all they can"), is a reference to the Depêche Mode song "Everything Counts". Puffing refers to the rattling hiss/growl/cough/snore noise that possums make to defend territory, and plucked refers to a possum who has lost a tuft of fur in possum wars.

Cocoa the Gargoyle - click to enlarge (january 2006)

25/01/06: Sugar glider sighting last night. Both GK and I observed a sugar glider fairly close to the house leaping with great agility higher and higher up a gum tree. Neither of us fetched our cameras quickly enough. We thought there were probably two of them, but one made itself more visible than the other.

03/02/06: Some new photos I might put elsewhere at some point (at present I don't have much organizational energy): Blackbeard hanging from the roof, and eating grapes in the house. Blackbeard has even sat beside me on the sofa eating grapes.

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Cocoa the Gargoyle: The photo to the right of Cocoa posing as a gargoyle will be processed when I can manage it. I hope to give her wings and a tail and a gargoylish texture. [Technically, I think the mouth is supposed to be open such that it functions as a spout.] In the photo as it is currently, it is possible to see the hot curry that is smeared on parts of her face. Hot enough that if it was on my face, my eyes or nose would probably run. (She is still mad for hot-spicy foods.)

09/03/06: A new male possum has been about lately. This evening he accepted food from both GK and I. (It was the first time we tried to feed him.)

We have still not seen Ginger. We may have to accept that we won't see her again. We have wondered if the new male possum is actually Kulfi. When we first saw him, he looked so much like Cocoa that we thought it might be Cocoa. [Later, one night when Cocoa chased him off, we saw that Cocoa was actually larger than him, which may place him at the approximate age and development of Kulfi. It is likely that if Kulfi survived that he would become independent at pretty much exactly this time.]

Blackbeard has been allowing himself to be petted for some time now.

kulfi - click to enlarge (march 2006)

We have decided to think of this possum as Kulfi. Kulfi took to handfeeding immediately, and keeps coming back. In addition to the photo to the right which demonstrates his resemblance to Ginger (note the longish ears), we have two extra photos. He looks a bit like Blackbeard in this one. Here's an extra.

We are wondering if much of the info we have read online about possums and their territories is misleading or if the actual details are more complex than we've seen described anywhere.

04/04/06: Kulfi often runs off to eat his food in privacy, and then slinks back to get more. He is becoming braver and will often stay in one place to eat grapes or small pieces of food. We have seen him on the balcony on one occasion so far. He appears to have a few battle scars, but overall looks fit and healthy.

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Late in March, GK experienced an unprecedented occurrence: Cocoa and Blackbeard were in the house at the same time. They scrabbled a bit, and Cocoa overturned the muesli Blackbeard was eating, and also nipped at his hindquarters.

We have discovered that the brushtail possums in Sydney have shorter, less fluffy tails than those we have observed in Queensland. The Sydney possums also seem to have darker colouring on the whole, and we have noticed that many of them have markings that make them look like they are wearing heavy eyeliner. Below and to the right is a photo of a brushtail in the Royal Botanic Gardens in daytime, and here is a photo of an enterprising possum in Hyde Park at night. More photos taken in Hyde Park: a prancing male, and photos of a possum swarm: three possums on the ground, and two in the tree above.

Possum lovers come regularly to feed the park possums. These possums are generally not shy.

Rats were brazen and plentiful in Hyde Park.

17/04/06: Cocoa showed up tonight with a badly torn ear and a leg wound. She is getting around as per usual, and her personality seems unaltered. Perhaps she's into body modification. We were very concerned by the severity of the wound, but relieved that it wasn't something that would impair her ability to function.

sydney possum - click to enlarge (march 2006)

Kulfi has become a regular visitor. Like Cocoa, he enjoys meat and hot/spicy foods.

01/05/06: Cocoa was in a tree near the balcony in the daytime (we noticed her at about 4:45 pm), looking dishevelled and scared. Maybe she was somehow chased out of her sleeping hole. She waited around until dark (a little before 6 pm), at which time she seemed less frightened and took some food. Perhaps whenever Cocoa has a bad experience she comes here because she feels relatively safe here. Since her injury she has been coming more often than usual.

It became evident to us on 22/04/06 that Cocoa has a joey in her pouch.

02/05/06: Cocoa slept in the ringtail box. She arrived for feeding at night and seemed considerably cleaner than the previous day, but still somewhat shaken.

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07/05/06: We are worried about Cocoa. Yesterday at around 4 pm I heard some noisy birds and discovered that Cocoa was being harassed by said birds (including a currawong and some others). She was again out in daylight, again with a very scruffy appearance compared to usual, again looking frightened. She eventually made her way into the ringtail box, and slept soundly (after falling asleep almost immediately) from 4:30 pm through until approximately 5:30 the next afternoon, only waking occasionally to groom herself.

She came by the house not long after leaving the ringtail box. She was more cautious and subdued than usual. She had a few small patches of tar on her fur, but as she was in a tree it was too difficult to try to give her a haircut.

Since her injury, she is apparently still intimidating enough to chase off both Kulfi and Blackbeard when they appear, or to at least make them noticeably nervous.

melbourne possum - click to enlarge (july 2006)

When Cocoa arrives at night, GK calls her the lop-ear or draggle-ear possum. Her ear looks like it will have a permanent droop. To see a photo taken in the daytime on 01/05/06 that shows how her ear is healing, click here.

09/05/06: Cocoa seems to have regained some of her feisty-ness. Another photo of the draggle-ear was taken last night.

12/05/06: It looks like Cocoa managed to comb out the tar that was in her fur on her own. She is in very good spirits and has a lot of energy, as usual.

Here she is dangling in June. To see her eating a Cocoa Lolly, also in June, click here.

28/07/06: Possums in Melbourne parks may not be as used to human contact as those in warmer states, but when you make the effort, they seem to adapt quickly. We tempted this male possum with mandarin segments (possums seem to prefer mandarins over regular oranges, but will often eat both) and melon, reaching it up to him on a stick. Later, he was lucky enough to sample a bit of cherry danish (shown in a photo to the right) from one of the famous St. Kilda cakeshops - the Acland Cake Shop. We saw other possums in the parks around the Royal Botanic Gardens, including a mother with a back-riding baby, but weren't able to coax any other ones closer. We left mandarin segments and (peeled) melon for them to grabble when they felt brave enough to venture lower in the trees. We noticed that many of the trees in the area were sporting possum guards or 'collars', and that many of the possums we spotted were in bare trees with not much to eat. However, we didn't see any skinny possums.

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Cocoa is plumping up with her baby. She seems healthy. A few leaves have been brought into the brushtail box, and we are wondering if this is some sort of preparation for her baby. Ginger did something similar not long before we observed Ginger and Cocoa in the nestbox. It's only a few leaves, not enough to seem like nesting material or insulation, but perhaps baby possums use leaves to teethe or as toys?

Kulfi is still coming around. He is a very quick and alert possum. He currently has a couple of small plucked parts, but he looks healthy in the overall sense. Blackbeard also still visits regularly and looks very fit.

31/07/06: The photo of a plump Cocoa in the entry 28/07/06 was actually taken in June. Here's one taken last night. It probably won't be long until we get to see a back-riding baby.

05/08/06: GK has just heard from one of our neighbours that they have a little possum, possibly Cocoa, who sleeps in their rolled up garage door, of all things! This neighbour finds possums cute, and first checks if a tail is hanging out, and then taps the door so the possum will pull the tail in, to prevent it from getting caught when she operates the door. She can hear the little possum running in place like a hamster on a wheel. On one occasion, there was a trail of blood on the side of their house leading up to another possum sleeping spot where there is a hole in the eaves (not sure about this, just guessing) under the roof. We are wondering if this occurred when Cocoa was badly wounded a while back.

queek's first visit - click to enlarge (august 2006)

20/08/06: Cocoa's baby has been named Queek. We don't know yet if it is a male or female. Unfortunately, Cocoa hasn't brought the little one into either of the nestboxes. With regards to the larger one, the one she spent a lot of time in as a baby, GK recently plopped in a piece of gingerbread to remind Cocoa of the presence of the box. She snuck in to gobble the gingerbread within 2 hours of it being placed in the box, but didn't take the hint about bringing the baby back later to sleep.

New baby part photos: a grabbing hand emerges as Cocoa nibbles carrot cake (our first glimpse of Cocoa was a hand reaching out of the pouch, and occurred as Ginger ate chocolate cake), Queek's tail hanging out of the pouch, and Queek's ear and tail. Queek has some definite rufus colouring, and the very tip of the tail is light while the rest is dark.

The possums receive gingerbread less often than in the past. GK has created special possum recipes for muesli bars and birdseed bars. The possums are very appreciative of both.

Cocoa has been vigorously defending her territory. A couple of times recently Blackbeard has overturned himself in the trees in his haste and panic to escape the Fierce Draggle-Ear. Meanwhile, the 'fierce' one seems to tolerate it when GK tells her she is "round", "bulbous" and that she resembles a football.

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24/08/06: Look at the size of that foot! We still haven't had a glimpse of a back-riding Queek. Maybe if Queek is male Cocoa can't let him out of the pouch in an area where two males (Blackbeard and Kulfi) might find him an easy target. So, we're still waiting. Here's a photo of Cocoa twisting for a piece of apple, with Queek inside the pouch.

Later the same day: A wide-eyed and very long-legged Queek made a first (full body) appearance tonight at 19:00. We still don't know Queek's sex. Queek has a more elongated appearance than Cocoa did when she was a back-riding wonder.

Queek has reddish colouring on the shoulders, similar to Blackbeard. We haven't read anything yet about the possible inbreeding of possums. We are not sure where Queek will go at the age of independence. Our area so far seems to support three adult brushtails at one time, and we aren't sure if things will be shaken up by Queek's presence, or who will stick around in time.

queek's first visit - click to enlarge (august 2006)

Queek has a more orange look than Cocoa. This may be the usual colouring for a juvenile coat. When she first came out into the world, Cocoa was noticeably orange in comparison to Ginger, but is now a much more grey possum. It could also be that baby possums are somewhat stained by the scent-marking of their mothers.

More Queek photos: in profile (this one depicts the long legs), a somewhat chopped off head, and a bewildered expression, more mother and baby possum cuteness, Queek tries to get back in the pouch (Cocoa is nibbling gingerbread that she has been given in honour of Queek's first back-riding), belly-riding (well, Queek is still trying to get back in the pouch, but it looks like belly-riding), one last one with a startled (or maybe scared) expression.

29/08/06: Last night, Cocoa was screeching at Blackbeard quite a bit. Perhaps she was annoyed at his stalking behaviour. We don't know why Blackbeard is following her around. It could be that he wants to mate with her, or that he wants to harm Queek. Last year, when Ginger was looking after Cocoa, Blackbeard acted similarly, and it wasn't long until Ginger had a new joey in the pouch. Also, we recently noticed another male brushtail in our yard - one we have never seen before. He looked large and strong, and was the most blundering, buffoonish possum we have observed, and that's saying a lot. Maybe he was actually trying to call attention to himself or to antagonize Blackbeard, who was calmly nibbling food offered by the human food trees.

Cocoa and Blackbeard both had at least one turn each sitting on top of the ringtail box, and both appeared to be scent-marking the area. None of this seemed to deter Kulfi from later choosing the ringtail box as his possum hotel for the day. He has been sleeping semi-regularly in the ringtail box, and as the weather gets warmer he stretches out into all kinds of cute poses rather than staying curled tightly into a ball.

I had been meaning to mention something further about possum grooming. While possums groom themselves upon entering a nestbox (before sleep) and at various times during the day when they wake briefly, all of the possums we have observed in nestboxes seem to concentrate especially attentively on grooming about 30 minutes or so prior to leaving the box for the evening. It's almost like it's important to possums to shower, shave, put on their makeup, do their hair, etc, (make themselves pretty) so as to adequately prepare themselves for their possum duties.

Before leaving a nestbox, a possum will groom itself for a while, maybe have a little peek outside, then curl up and attempt to sleep for a few more minutes, and keep repeating the process until it feels ready to leave the box.

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cocoa and queek - click to enlarge (august 2006)

31/08/06: Queek is a boy. He had lost his balance or his grip and Cocoa was unconcernedly treading on him (he didn't squeal or even look uncomfortable - perhaps he's already accustomed to this sort of treatment) while trying to reach for food. While Queek was off-balance, GK was able to see that he had male parts.

Queek had a leg wound, but wasn't incapacitated by it. It's possible he had been poked or scratched by branches. His mother does not worry about handling him roughly. It is part of a possum's life to acquire wounds of various descriptions.

We'll have to see how it all works out with having so many male possums in one area.

GK and I have both been allowed to pet Queek while Queek clings to Cocoa's back. Cocoa doesn't seem to mind, and Queek doesn't appear to become anxious. He doesn't flinch or try to squirm away, he doesn't hiss at us, and he doesn't try to scratch or bite us. I have heard that when baby possums experience distress they sometimes poop out a white, slimy substance. (I saw Cocoa do this once when she was back-riding, but I have not seen Queek do it.)

After spotting a brilliantly coloured pale-headed rosella the other day, GK quickly taped a plastic container filled with birdseed to a tree in the hopes of convincing the bird to hang around for a while. It didn't, but later that night, and on subsequent nights, we discovered Blackbeard with his head in the bowl.

In a photo to the right, Cocoa demonstrates her dexterity. GK handed her the blue cup with muesli in it, and she was able to eat the muesli without dropping the cup until she was finished. Queek can smell the foods we offer Cocoa. At times the little Queek nose sniffs the air, and often what Queek smells reminds him that he feels hungry, which results in him placing his head in the pouch to suckle for a while.

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05/09/06: Queek is now taking solid food. We have a few new movies (added to the queue on the possum tv section.) In one, Queek tries to bite birdseed right out of Cocoa's mouth and they scrabble a bit. In another, Queek accepts a piece of carrot from GK, occasionally looking over his shoulder to keep an eye on Blackbeard as he nibbles.

We also have some footage of Cocoa fiercely chasing Blackbeard away. GK has noticed on more than one occasion that when this sort of thing occurs, Blackbeard makes a clicking noise. This clicking can be heard at the end of the "Cocoa chases Blackbeard" movie. [The purpose of the clicking may be to calm a female possum down in order to prepare her for mating.]

Today is the first occasion on which Blackbeard has slept in one of our possum boxes. He chose the large brushtail box (the one Ginger and Cocoa spent so much time in last year.)

olaf the marauding possum - click to enlarge (september 2006)

Recently, we both noticed that Blackbeard looked thinner than normal. (He also has a small wound on the inside of his tail, and a small plucked area on his body.) We have been trying to plumpen him up, partly by encouraging him to eat birdseed. Since Spring is a mating season for possums, he may be expending his energy in trying to mate, and if he's chosen Cocoa, she is perhaps making things difficult for him. Olaf, on the other hand, may be so attractive to female possums that he doesn't have to work very hard to acquire consent. Or perhaps he's simply more forceful.

The "blundering" and "buffoonish" possum will hereafter be referred to as Olaf the Marauder. (We also considered 'Olaf the Blunder Possum' or 'Olaf the Oafish'.) All of this name calling smacks of 'my possum is better than your possum simply because I saw him first', and I don't approve of such an approach. However, this Olaf has proven to be quite an amusing fellow, and it seems fitting to honour him with a special place in our story. As far as possums go, he is the largest one we've seen in these parts, large enough that he resembles a koala, albeit a rather feral and aggressive one. More observation will be necessary, but he seems more brawny than brainy.

Perhaps in his remote kingdom he heard legends of a land in which gingerbread, muesli, pizza, chocolate, etc, grow on trees, in which the choicest of all fruits are freely offered to any possum with the fortitude to strut up and pluck them from the branches of the fearsome Human Food Trees. So far, Olaf has only mustered up the courage to grabble apple peelings and carrot nubs when the human food trees have disappeared from view, and to once clumsily grabble a piece of apple from the female food tree extended to him on the end of a pole. He really put his weight into the tricky manoeuvre, almost yanking the pole from her hands. [All other possums we've had contact with have opted for a more studied approach, carefully and deftly plucking food from the end of the pole without need for brute force.]

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08/09/06: Queek is taking steps towards independence. When food is offered, he doesn't always let us hold the food for him or stay on Cocoa's back to eat it. He often absconds with it to his own gobbling branch. When he returns to Cocoa, for a moment they do a cute nose sniffing thing.

On the 6th, Olaf the Marauder came skulking by again, grabbled some birdseed and then disappeared off into the lower recesses of the garden. He was noticeably anxious. The Fierce Draggle-Ear has him on her radar. Later that night, she traced his path, sniffing the places he had been. She appeared to be seriously annoyed.

queek on his own gobbling branch - click to enlarge (september 2006)

Early in the evening on the 7th, Cocoa observed Olaf's movements from above, looking ready to pounce at any second. We are waiting to see what happens. Maybe Olaf is one of Cocoa's suitors.

Queek is now routinely trying to wrestle food away from Cocoa. He often succeeds. On the 7th he managed to take a large apple core from her, and then, looking very pleased with himself, quickly darted away to find a gobbling branch (with Cocoa in pursuit.) The apple core got dropped, and then the whole drama began again with a new piece of apple.

When attempting to pet a possum, as with most animals it is best not to make any sudden movements. We have found that the best time to try is when a possum is nibbling something. Most possums will first allow the hump of their backs to be petted (even if their backs are turned to you.) You could also try to touch the inside of the tail to see if the possum will curl its tail around your finger or hand. Queek permitted us to pet him when he wasn't eating anything, but now that he accepts food from both of us it may be that his head will follow our hands, expecting food to come from the direction of the hands. Beware that in such cases a possum may nip your finger. :> It is sometimes possible to pet a possum without it expecting food. It depends on the individual possum and on the circumstances. Some adjust better than others to being petted, but most brushtails permit it to some extent once they become accustomed to your presence.

Some time ago I wrote that I would like to eventually create a gargoyle-ish picture of Cocoa. My first attempt didn't turn out the way I had originally intended, but can be found here.

14/09/06: Both GK and I admitted that we hadn't really become comfortable with the flash possum intro over time, so for now it has been replaced by a (different) version of the photo of Cocoa linked above. The old page will be linked here. Some new items have been added to the site today, and some existing pages have been updated.

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Olaf's visitations are still occurring. His fur looks very soft, fluffy and clean. GK was the first to handfeed him - a piece of carrot. He commented that Olaf was a very strong possum, that he tugged roughly, perhaps unsure of how much force was required to pluck food from a human food tree. We have now both been able to handfeed him, but so far he has only had a very small amount of food. One thing he seemed to like was gingerbread. It is apparently a food that no brushtail possum can refuse.

Cocoa is now leaving Queek on his own for short periods.

15/09/06: We may have been hasty in our assessments of Olaf's size. As I write, he is sleeping in the ringtail box. He fills more of the interior than Kulfi does, but the door/hole is small, so perhaps Olaf has a build that makes him appear larger (and more menacing?) than he actually is.

olaf the marauder - click to enlarge (september 2006)

Cocoa's pouch is shrinking back, and at times now she looks quite tiny.

16/09/06: Last night when Cocoa was preoccupied with a light snack, Queek was off doing his own thing on his own branch. He noticed the approach of Olaf the Marauder from below. Queek adopted an aggressive and threatening stance, which caused Olaf to beat a hasty retreat. It seems unlikely that a puny little baby possum like Queek could seriously frighten a big, strong possum like Olaf, so perhaps Queek was communicating something in possum language that was the equivalent of poking out his tongue and saying 'unless you leave here this instant, I'm going to tell my mommy, and in case you didn't realize, she is the Fierce Draggle-Ear'. [We recently witnessed Cocoa chasing Olaf out of a tree down onto the garden floor. He did appear to be panicked.]

25/09/06: Queek was recently catapulted more than a metre when Cocoa stepped onto a precarious branch. She went down, he went up. He appeared startled, but recovered and made his way back to Cocoa.

When Queek dared to leap from the balcony into a tree Blackbeard was perched in, the branch he landed on broke under him, and he plummeted almost to the ground. He eventually scrabbled back up the tree.

Blackbeard and Olaf are courting Cocoa, but she is playing extremely hard to get. The two males appear to be losing weight as a result of the stress and exertion.

More new photos: Queek eating chocolate, a handsome photo of Olaf, Cocoa and Queek eating side by side and Queek roughly grabbing Cocoa's ear while trying to get food from her.

Cocoa and Olaf sitting in a tree, h-i-s-s-i-n-g. The closest thing to possum porn we've seen yet, a rather intense lovers' spat. Hopefully GK will soon convert the footage. Olaf was quite sweet in his approach, but Cocoa wasn't having any of it. Meanwhile, Queek was stuck in a tree on the other side of the garden, having been unable to make the leap to this side when Cocoa did. The encounter with Olaf put Cocoa in such a foul mood that she took it out on Queek when he made his way back to her (shortly after the spurned Olaf skulked off.) She hissed at Queek and boxed his ears before relenting and then patting his head to reassure him. Cocoa's temper didn't faze Queek - he is probably accustomed to it.

cocoa, queek and blackbeard - click to enlarge (september 2006) top of page

29/09/06: Cocoa has carried a back-riding Queek into the house a couple of times now. It looks like she is showing him around, teaching him about what places are ok for a possum. He is becoming a bit big for back-riding. We also have a photo of their two little heads up on the roof.

Mp3s have been added to the site on individual possum pages. On the Blackbeard pages there is an example of the clicking noise a male makes to placate a female and get her in the mood for mating, on the Cocoa pages there is an mp3 of Cocoa screeching, and on the Queek pages are examples of the distressed noises a baby possum makes when its mother leaves it on its own.

In addition, two new movies have been added to the possum tv section. "Queek flailing" demonstrates Queek's efforts to get back to Cocoa after she has left him on his own, and "Cocoa vents her rage" shows the violent tussle with Olaf, and the subsequent short temper exhibited when Queek finally made his way back to her.

Cocoa and Ginger used to share food, whereas Queek always tries to take food out of Cocoa's mouth, and then runs away with it. Blackbeard is currently very fussy about food, with pears and sultanas (raisins) being the only healthy foods he seems to want. I think he misses grapes. (They are not currently in season.)

When possums are eating on the roof, they sometimes drop bits of food. It could be out of boredom, as they get tired of eating apples and carrots, but at times we wonder if they find it amusing to fling rejected food at our heads.

Last night there was a possum party with all five possums in attendance at once: Cocoa was on the balcony, Queek in a tree, Blackbeard in a tree glaring down at Olaf who was lower down in the garden, with a surprise appearance by Kulfi, who materialized in a tree out of left field. We see Kulfi less regularly than the other possums. At present, he has a very 'fresh' and healthy look.

cocoa climbs a trestle - click to enlarge (october 2006) top of page

07/10/06: Several months ago, we painted the outside of the house, but left the balcony alone. It required structural reinforcement and a completely new balustrade (as the old one was rotting). At present, the balcony is in the process of being fixed up/modernized. The new balustrade will be a combination of recycled timber, stainless steel wiring and some stainless steel posts. We were lucky to find a young company that is environmentally aware and specializes in utilizing recycled timber.

We will have to see how the possums like the new balustrade.

Olaf has been sleeping in the ringtail box every day the builders have been here. The first day the construction noises stressed him, and he didn't sleep well. By the second day he had adjusted and was able to filter out the noise as non-threatening. He showed up for dinner and ignored the equipment and the chaotic, unfinished condition of the balcony.

Cocoa, on the other hand, was extremely curious about what was happening with the balcony, and was more interested in checking things out and climbing a trestle than she was in receiving food.

A scrub turkey has been hanging around a lot lately. When the workmen went to have lunch, he picked his way through their equipment, tools, trestles, etc, gobbling up Pizza Shapes they had accidentally spilled on the patio.

09/10/06: Cocoa showed Queek all about trestles, even climbing with Queek on her back. (In the photo they are on a step, but Cocoa did climb with Queek back-riding.) Queek appears quite large, and we are wondering when he will become independent. Perhaps Cocoa is continuing to lug him around in an effort to bulk up - such that she will more effectively fend off her admirers.

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