birding-aus What peels lemons?

To: "Judy Caughley" <>
Subject: birding-aus What peels lemons?
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1999 21:32:01 +1000
Hello Judy,

        You wrote -

>Hi All,
>My neighbour in Toowoomba (west of Brisbane, Qld) has an old meyer lemon tree
>and something is neatly peeling the fruit and eating the peel (for there is
>none on the ground below). It does not touch the fruit which stays hanging in
>the tree minus its peel. Has anyone seen something similar or know what the
>culprit is?

We bought a Cosmos plant with white flowers and put it on the back landing
overnight intending to plant it next day.  In the morning every flower was
gone.  A cumquat tree in a large tub had every cumquat disappear overnight.
A bed of native violets had most of their flowers chewed off.   Young
lettuce plants chewed back to stubs.  Ditto Basil ... of the good variety:
we got some plants that did not have the proper Basil aroma and these were
scorned by our mystery thief, as by ourselves.   We really were mystified.

Then Anne asked me to trim a few branches on our Tristania laurina because
they were catching on the clothes hoist.  As soon as I started clipping
with pole shears a Ring-tailed Possum shot out of a nest in the clump of
Bromeliads we had in the tree.  Mystery solved.  From ground level the nest
was not at all obvious.

Since then I try to put something out for the possum each night.  Apples,
bananas, carrots, mandarins, tomatoes, avocadoes - whatever is cheap at the
local fruit-shop.  (Yes, small avocadoes have been very cheap of late.)
All eaten, as is the occasional bread crust and some tasteless rice-cakes
we bought in a packet and didn't like.  Haven't tried lemons, but I can
imagine that their sourness might be too much for a possum, but the peel

And yes, I know one shouldn't feed the wildlife, but I occasionally see
road-killed ringtails here in our inner Brisbane suburb of Hawthorne, so I
reckon its healthier for Poss. to stay at home and not go wandering the
streets looking for food.

Some years ago "Peter the Possum Man" lived in our street for a while.
Possums (Brushtails, rather than ringtails, I think) living under house
roofs are a sufficiently common problem here in Brisbane to warrant such a
'tradesperson'.  Apparently Peter was only renting for after some months,
his 'possum truck' was seen no more parked in the street.  Shortly after he
left, I was driving out, early evening, and a possum crossing the street
gave me a grin and a thumbs-up! Obviously reckoned "good riddance" to the
Possum Man. :-)

When I was very young (2 or 3) we had rainforest with lots of vines beside
our house on Tamborine Mountain and I was light enough to be able to climb
to the possums' nests.  They were all built out of leafy twigs.  I haven't
checked the literature but I reckon that's their standard behaviour.  So
they aren't going to invade houses and be a nuisance in that way.

Rats are another possibility. Less likely, I hope!  Back in the '60s a
friend living at Windsor in Brisbane was having trouble with something
eating his pawpaws just before they were ripe enough to pick.  Looked with
the torch on numerous occasions and could never get a glimpse of the
culprit.  Eventually he got desperate enough to load a .22 calibre rifle
with a rat-shot cartridge, and fixed it in position aimed at the bottom of
the pawpaw.  Waited until he heard something at the pawpaw then fired.
Result: one large rat.  And a very serious problem for the Forestry Dept
was (is?) rats chewing the bark off young hoop pines in the Yarraman
plantations.  And now that I come to think of it, I did see some bush
lemons on Lord Howe Island with some of the peel eaten.  LH has rats but no

Once I was camped out in the Conondale Ranges, hoping to hear Albert
Lyrebirds: if they were once in the Mary Valley as egg-collector Sid
Jackson recorded in his diary early this century, surely they would still
be there?  No lyrebirds, but at night some small creature was rustling over
the dry leaves around my camp stretcher.  Time after time, I lined up a
torch on the sound then switched it on.  Never got so much as a glimpse of
anything departimg.  So next night I tied a (used) T-bone steak bone on a
log and focussed my camera (with flash-light) on it.  Again never got a
glimpse of whatever it was, but when the film was developed I had a nice
shot of an Antechinus in full flight, all four feet well clear of the log!
Fantastic speed!

But I digress.  A ringtail is my best guess/hope.  Are there any densely
leafy trees in the near neighbourhood that might conceal a roughly
spherical nest of possum size?



H Syd Curtis

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