May 21, 2018

New Wildlife Survey Internship

Fat-tailed Dunnart
Fat-tailed Dunnart

Regular readers will know that a critical component of the Rewilding the Desert program is our baseline environmental monitoring program. In Spring and late Summer/early Autumn we conduct an extensive fauna survey program across:

  1. Our two predator-free wildlife sanctuaries (inside the predator-proof fences); and
  2. Similar habitat adjoining our wildlife sanctuaries (outside the fences).

To assist us with this mammoth task, we recruit volunteers and members of the local community. For our resent Summer survey program, however, we trialled something a bit different: A Wildlife Survey Internship. The idea was to engage a student studying in the Ecology, Conservation or Environmental Science fields, and provide them with some in-depth training and hands-on practical experience. In exchange, the student will provide a longer commitment to helping with the delivery of the monitoring program.

We were extremely lucky to recruit Hayley from Melbourne, who came up to the Little Desert Nature Lodge to help for 3 weeks. Hayley loved it so much she came back for another week! Here is a description from Hayley via Instagram of her experience:

“The sunset tonight. Perfectly summing up how incredibly lucky I have been over the last 3 weeks to see the things that I have seen, and experience some of the most wonderful and magical moments I could never have even imagined.

This place has become very special to me and I will be leaving here tomorrow with some amazing memories and stories that I will hold on to dearly but also with a great amount of self-growth. Thankyou little desert you truly have been magical!”

With the help of Hayley and our other volunteers we have:

  • Established two new traps sites
  • Trapped 34 sites and conducted 2,380 trap days and 3,060 trap nights
  • Captured 27 different species of animals; and
  • Captured 748 individual animals.

This was another great result and we could not have done it without Hayley’s help. We found the Internship to be a valuable model for us to deliver the monitoring program. Equally important, this model also provided some invaluable experience to our young and aspiring ecologists and conservation professionals.

To our amazing supporters and donors, we would again like to say thank you! Without your support we cannot continue this critical project and help conserve Australia’s weird, wonderful and highly threatened native wildlife.

Hayley with shingle-backed lizard
Hayley with shingle-backed lizard
Sunset at the desert
Sunset at the desert

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May 8, 2018

10 Years of Counting Cockies!

On Sunday the 8th of April our volunteer team joined 700 other volunteers to count black-cockatoos as they came in to their evening roosts. The Great Cocky Count is a long-term citizen science survey and the biggest single survey for black-cockatoos in Western Australia. This was the 10th year the event has taken place, with records submitted from across the southwest providing a snapshot of black-cockatoo populations to understand and quantify the changes in cockatoo numbers over time.

The Carnaby’s form large nocturnal communal roosts in the non-breeding season on the Swan Coastal Plain. The same roost sites are generally returned to year after year, with tree structure, food, shelter and water availability believed to be the crucial factors for roost selection. However, as Perth continues to expand, the native Banksia woodland on the Swan Coastal Plain is disappearing, providing less roosting habitat and critical food resources for Carnaby’s and other native species. This has resulted in the Carnaby’s forming a ‘mega roost’ with more individuals flocking to select sites. The volunteers counted 6,226 Carnaby’s at a mega roost during this year’s Great Cocky Count!

The largest threats to the Carnaby’s remain the consequence of land clearing and habitat fragmentation due to urban development, agriculture and competition for the remaining nesting hollows from species such as Galah, corella and feral bees. To help with this, we will soon be entering the planting season, and will continue to work with local councils and community groups to re-establish native vegetation in priority bushland reserves to secure a future for these beautiful birds.

As always, would like to thank our supporters, volunteers and very generous GlobalGiving donors. Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to continue engaging the community in local conservation efforts. Further donations are definitely appreciated, and will help us to continue to make a difference for our endangered native species.

Swan Coastal Plain
Swan Coastal Plain

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May 4, 2018

Autumn Monitoring Has Begun!

As the dry hot summer has now pushed into autumn, rainfall events have been very few and far between.  This is having a detrimental effect on our grasslands at Woodlands Historical Park.  Even though this is nature and out of our control, we’re hoping to receive some soon. Naturally we go through drought periods and the bandicoots do adapt. But with grazing pressure also happening within the reserve this has become a combined effort and reduced our grass habitat cover. 

During our recent monitoring, we were expecting fewer bandicoots to be caught as the animals adjust their breeding based on the conditions available, which were not favourable given the lack of rain.  There is still plenty of natural food available just not the adequate grass habitat to commence large breeding rates.  Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer Travis Scicchitano reports: “Our aim for this round of monitoring was to see the health of the bandicoots, not so much the numbers. We were please to find 45 animals that were captured and released - 28 male and 17 female. Over half of these were in fact 24 were cleanskins (caught for the first time). This indicates that the bandicoots are still breeding and turning over new stock despite the current conditions.  Also, they were caught in all areas of the reserve, which was a positive outcome. Most importantly the animals were in good condition so hopefully they have got through the hardest part of this long summer and look forward to some rain over the cooler months.” Check out one of our bandicoot release videos – they are fast!

 It was a tough monitoring program in Hamilton this round as the original dates had to be cancelled due to a bushfire. Travis explains, “The bushfire was moving in the direction of the reserve the week before, so no chances were taken and we postponed the monitoring for two weeks once the fire had been put out.  Fortunately, at no stage was the reserve under threat due to excellent fire management plans and protection. We appreciate the efforts of all the staff and volunteers who had to reschedule their time under such short notice.”    

Once monitoring commenced, it was great to see that Hamilton’s bandicoots are continuing to grow in numbers and all are passing their health checks. Travis says, “40 bandicoots were caught and processed and all doing very well.  We now estimate the population to be around 80 - 100 and hoping this will increase up to 150 by the end of the year. So, bring on the rain to improve breeding conditions and we look forward to providing updates throughout the year.”

As always, would like to thank our supporters, volunteers and very generous GlobalGiving donors. Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to continue engaging the community in local conservation efforts. Further donations are definitely appreciated, and will help us to continue to make a difference for our endangered native species.

Volunteers releasing bandicoot after health check
Volunteers releasing bandicoot after health check

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