Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy 1st day of Spring!

So, today all the locals celebrated the first day of spring. And, more importantly perhaps, yesterday they celebrated the last day of winter. I've been quite confused about all of this because I'm much more familiar with the change of seasons corresponding with the cycles of the sun, i.e. the end of the summer season occurs when the length the days are equal to the length of nights, the September equinox. When we asked the woman who runs the hostel about this, she just said that they needed to keep things more simple down here.

Yesterday I was up at 4:30 am to meet Louise, a woman who works at the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), to do some bird surveys. We drove out to Two People's Bay Nature Reserve and picked up Chris, the other volunteer currently residing at the research station. Once at the reserve we headed out into the field to search for noisy scrub birds. These birds were once thought to be extinct, but were found in the Nature Reserve in the 60's. Since then, the population has been monitored by DEC.

The birds were out in full-force, as it was a beautiful morning, but we didn't hear any of the noisy scrub birds. We did hear two whip birds, which is another species of interest to DEC. We also saw three kangaroos that were about 20 metres away from us! It was really cool to see these guys in the wild. I'm going to try to get out and see if I can find some more and take some pictures. We also found all sorts of interesting vegetation because these birds live in coastal scrub bush. It was really nice to hike as the sun rose around us.

This lake is called Lake Gardner. This is within the nature reserve. It's a coastal lake, but I'm not sure if it's salty.

After the survey, we drove farther into the reserve so I could see Little Beach. Just down the coast the beaches were voted the whitest in Australia and I figure this one is comparable. This is probably the most beautiful beach I have ever seen and it's in my backyard for the next week, or so. It's also whale migration season here and all the Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are coming into the shallow waters to have their caves. Everyone is out to see them. I haven't seen any yet, but I most likely will before my time is up here.

After our drive, Louise dropped Chris and I off in town. We needed to go grocery shopping for the rest of the week. We decided to spend the afternoon hiking around and stay at the hostel I've been at for the night. We hiked back up to the coastline walk I had done the day before. This time we climbed up on the coastal searchlight emplacement and watched for whales again. We searched with Chris' binoculars, but couldn't see any whales.

It was still a nice place to sit for awhile and we did see one big seal sunning himself on a rock.

On the trail we ran into these guys. They're a type of cockatoo that only lives in Albany, which isn't a very large place. As I mentioned before, the main part of Albany is the size of Lakefield. At that point I hadn't realized there is also a large industrial section, big-box store section, and a rich section that looks like something out of Southern California. Anyway, these guys are cool. This country just has so many rare and endemic species and if you keep your eye out they're easy to find.

We walked back into town and got caught in a downpour. It sure can rain in Albany. By the time we finished grocery shopping I had dried off again. It takes a while to shop when you're so unfamiliar with the store and all of the food products. Back at the hostel I made dinner for us, leek and potato soup with delicious bread and brie. We watched Flight of the Conchords, which is very popular over here, with some of the other people at the hostel. And we chatted about Battlestar Galactica as we both have a special place in our hearts for the BSG crew.

This morning we couldn't go out to survey birds. Unfortunately, many parts of Australia have been invaded with dieback fungus. This is a plant disease which can kill many species of vegetation in the country. It spreads through the water and soil. Tracking mud around the nature reserve can be very dangerous. So, after a big rain event we can't go into the field. Instead, we caught a ride with one of the other DEC employees up to the station. Val is responsible for feeding the Gilbert's Potoroos. These little marsupials were once the most endangered mammal in Australia. The feral cats and foxes really like to eat them. Due to the efforts of the good people at DEC, however, they are now the second most endangered mammal in Australia. The last population was found at Two People's Bay. I think there are about 37 in the wild and 14 in captivity right now. They have been attempting to design a captive breeding program, but haven't had much luck yet. They try to use Long-nosed Potoroos from outeast as surrogate mothers. Each day, all of the potoroos need to be fed, so we helped out with that. They eat a very good diet of nuts, fruits and veg, mealworms, and truffles (not fancy french ones, but more common local ones). We would have went truffle digging, but it was raining much too hard.

This is Val making potoroo lunch.

Caged Chris collecting food dishes from potoroo enclosures.

Little not-so-endangered surrogate mother long-nosed potoroo out and about eating some lunch.

Much more shy and highly endangered Gilbert's Potoroo inspecting lunch and staying away because of the stranger trying to snap her photo.

Tomorrow it's supposed to rain all day again. We'll sleep in and hang out at the station. Hopefully I can get down to explore the beach a little and I'll probably help Val feed the potoroos. On Thursday and Friday we'll hopefully be able to survey birds or some of the vegetation plots they keep track of around here. This weekend Chris and I are going to rent a car and go camping out at the Stirling Range. He has a camp stove and there are tents and things to borrow here. Apparently this is a great time of year to see the wildflowers out there and there are all kinds of orchids and interesting things. I really hope the weather clears up for that!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cassandra

    I've been reading your blog and looking at all of your photos. My neighbour next door was the one who helped me see it by "surfing on the web".

    I'm looking forward to seeing more! When my friend is available.

    Your stories were out of this world!

    Hope to hear from you again soon! Glad you are enjoying it so much!

    Love Grandma (Doris)