Monday, November 26, 2012

Work Trip cut short

Well if things had gone to plan, I would still be out in the Great Western Woodlands surveying for fauna and seeing lots of new things. Instead, I'm in an office in downtown Perth updating the blog!

So here's what happened...

On Monday I departed Perth, along with 5 other Ecologia employees (an environmental consulting firm down here, that employs Nigel and Bruce... and for the time-being... me!). We were headed NE, into the mallee woodlands and mulga scrub north of the town of Southern Cross. For the next eleven days the plan was to dig in some pit-fall traps (for small mammals, reptiles, and a few invertebrates), and conduct a variety of other fauna surveys. These had to do with a proposed mining development in the area. Room and board was provided by a mining camp. As opposed to the tents, flies, and single-burner stoves I have become accustomed to, here there was a camp-cook, A/C, and flush-toilets!
Here's the main hang-out area of the camp.
Unneeded Tip: If you ever have trouble lighting a bon-fire because the wood is wet, see if half a jug of diesel will help.
Although I was hired as "the bird man," the first three days were to be spent digging holes for the traps. Depending on the weather and the ground your digging in, this work can vary from sweaty, to hot-hot-hot, back-straining, and blister-conceiving. Overall, it wasn't too bad, but as the resident "bird man," it was a little frustrating to be in such a variety of primo bush habitats without the ability to chase down mystery noises or even look up for too long.

And here's where the frustrating part comes in. Like in NE British Columbia, or the Prairies, when it rains in this area, the driving tracks become un-drive-able, plus in increases the risk of spreading the vegetation disease known as "Die-back." Anyhoo, as you may have guessed, it rained! This meant we had to scramble to close all the traps we had set up, and since the roads won't be fit for driving until next week, we were sent back to Perth and somebody else will have to fill in as "bird man" because I'm driving cross-country! (More on that later).

So in sum, it sucks that I'm back since it means less money, less birds, and less COOL PHOTOS FOR THE BLOG!

Despite all that, here are a couple neat images I think you'll enjoy:

One of WA's top herpers (Jordan Vos), trying to figure out a way to cook his pie.
For a few days (during the digging), I was worried this would be my only photograph from the trip.  Since it's a signature RC-style "how the birder sees it" moment, I thought I'd include it. This is a female Chestnut Quail-thrush running away
One comes across many a cockroach whilst digging holes in this part of the world.
This was one of the more attractive ones (roughly 6cm-long).
A large stick-insect inspects Jordan's sun-kissed neck
Here's a creature very few Australians have ever seen. This is a full-grown (Western) Pygmy Possum! Held by Astrid Heidrich, our commander-in-chief. A lifer-mammal for most.
More dopey cute action (Probably a little over-heated from the trap)
Give this puppy a bottle-cap of water, then it's back into the flowering gum trees
Remember a month ago when I said I was extremely fortunate to catch a brief glimpse of a Scarlet-chested Parrot? Well on our last day, we had 5 along a short stretch of road near Southern Cross. One (female)...tragically... did not make it all the way across. To put this in perspective for North American birders, it's like if you were to drive along a road in northern Yukon and hit a bird, only to discover that it was a Gray-headed Chickadee!
Several of the top Aussie birders still need this one! #Museumbound
Not as rare as the scarlet-chest, it's always a treat to run into Major Mitchell's Cockatoo!!!
Back in Perth, here's a decent comparison shot of a Long-billed (left), and Little Corella.
Also in Perth. This was a bit of a jinx bird for me, but finally after chasing up multiple reports, I finally caught up with this Freckled Duck (a scarce nomad of interior wetlands) at Gwelup Lake.

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