Thursday, September 17, 2009

Potoroo tracking.

I decided to stay in Albany for an extra day so I could go out to the field with Steph Hill and help out with the potoroo tracking. Steph needed to catch some potoroos and check if they had pouch young. Some of the long-nosed potoroo foster mothers are ready to take on some new babies. Potoroos were the most endangered mammal in Australia, but now there are about 50 in the wild, so they are only the second most endangered.

Steph had baited the traps (on 5 permanent traplines) the night before. She uses a mixture of peanut butter, oats, and essence of pistachio. The bait smells delicious at first, but then starts to be sickeningly sweet when you follow her through the scrub for a few hours.

We managed to trap all sorts of little guys including 6 potoroos. The first little animal we came across was a bush rat. They are good rats, not bad ones, and are very important in the ecosystem. They are also very cute with fluffy little noses. They don't actually eat the bait, they just explore and trip a lot of traps and then end up staying in them for the night. They are also very quick and bounce around the trap and climb up the sides when we are trying to release them.

When we catch a potoroo we put it in a bag and then Steph checks them out. It's hard to get them to leave the bag because they are more scared being outside of it than inside of it.

We saw a lot of other interesting things on our trek up Mt Gardner. I heard about 5 Noisy Scrub-bird individuals. I'm glad I definitely heard one because that was the reason I went down to Albany in the first place. Chris tried to find one for me at Two People's Bay, but they don't sing reliably out there. On Mt. Gardner they don't stop singing and they're definitely noisy.

This is a Christmas Tree. It has a particularly interesting shape. I'm not sure why it has that name, but maybe it flowers during that time of year. On that note, the other volunteer who came along with us, Virginia, is currently writing an article for Lonely Planet (what a cool job!) about the three Christmas Islands in the world. One is Australian territory and another one is just off Cape Breton. She went to visit the Canadian Christmas Island last February! And ended up driving through blizzards on the side of the road she isn't used to. I think she's a bit crazy.

I also got some good close-ups of bandicoots. They are another small marsupial and they get caught in the traps quite often.

Another type of banksia. I can't get enough of these plants. Apparently the lumpers have been at work because all of the dryandra species are now in the banksia family too. They still go by dryandra, commonly, but the genus is now Banksia.

Near the end of the day, we actually trapped a potoroo with a one month old baby. It doesn't have any fur and it didn't want to come out of the pouch. We actually had a hard time getting it back into the pouch and I had to hold the baby. My hands were so cold, I could just feel it's heart beating so hard.

And, of course, the view off Mt. Gardner was spectacular. The little island is called Coffin Island, named for an explorer by the name coffin, not because it looks like one.

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