It’s not how some people would spend their holidays; early mornings and late nights, grappling reptiles, camping in wet muddy conditions…
Nevertheless, myself and four other volunteers took time off from our regular work to help Dr Pippa Kern undertake the autumn fauna surveys at Edgbaston Reserve in central Queensland recently.
These surveys are conducted twice a year to monitor the terrestrial wildlife species present on the reserve (covering just over 8,000 hectares of dry, arid landscapes of Artesian springs, spinifex, grassland and wattle), which was purchased by Bush Heritage Australia in 2008.
The days are long, with pre-dawn wake-ups to catch the birds and nocturnal searches meaning we're back well after dark.
Fortunately, there's usually a few hours free time in the middle of the day to kip in the shade of the iconic Edgy shearing shed that we call base.
The shearing shed also has an open air bathroom, with only three walls and no roof; but this provided an amazing view during our well-earned showers, with the Milky Way galaxy overhead and lightning flashes along the horizon.
Although some of the early rainfall and storms that hit central Queensland in mid-March missed us at Edgbaston, we did have to cut the surveys a few days short to ensure the wildlife were kept safe (i.e. not left in traps during inclement weather) and we were able to leave the reserve before being rained in.
Over 160 species were recorded either in the monitoring surveys or as incidental records on the reserve. This included nine species of amphibians, 100 birds, 10 terrestrial mammals, and 41 reptiles.
As I have a particular interest in microbats, I also recorded echolocation calls around the reserve, with at least six species detected, including the Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat, Gould’s Wattled Bat and Inland Broad-nosed Bat.
Additionally, we also visited the artesian spring where Pippa recently translocated a number of critically endangered Red-finned Blue-eye (see blog post here) – one of the endemic fish species only found at Edgbaston Reserve.
It was exciting to see that there were plenty of juvenile fish around, indicating the translocated individuals have already been happily breeding in their new home.