Skip to content

My fauna trapping experience

Published 02 Mar 2020 by volunteer, Gillian Carter

This year I was lucky enough to be accepted as a volunteer for the annual fauna trapping on Bon Bon Station Reserve. I'm a member of the 'Newcastle cluster' of Bush Heritage supporters – a small but keen group prepared to travel great distances to volunteer. So it was with great excitement that we set off on the long trek to Bon Bon in November.

I have to admit, at first Bon Bon surprised me. The access road to the homestead passes through a large expanse of chenopod shrublands – vast, flat, sparsely scattered with low trees, and interspersed with rocky gibber flats and the aptly named 'buckshot plains' (a type of very fine black gravel).

“What fauna will we be trapping here?" I wondered. And when we reached the homestead and cottages (which are all well-fitted out and comfortable) I couldn't help noticing the complete absence of lawn!

However, it doesn't take long for the magic of Bon Bon to start unfolding. The elevated water trough near the homestead is a magnet for birdlife, and we were delighted by the orderly procession of evening and morning visitors.

In the evening the Galahs drink first, followed by the Blue Bonnets and Mulga Parrots, then the Common Bronzewing Pigeons, and finally just after dark the lovely little Bourke's Parrots. In the morning the order is reversed.

On another evening we sat enjoying the sight of a pair of Spotted Nightjars hawking back and forth for insects just near the homestead back gate.

Clint and Kate Taylor are the managers of Bon Bon, and both have a wealth of knowledge. They explained that when Bon Bon was acquired by Bush Heritage, all the artificial watering points (like stock watering troughs) were shut down. This is an important part of conservation as it is creating a natural functioning ecosystem. Artificial watering points encourage kangaroos to breed to numbers above the carrying capacity of the landscape, resulting in overgrazing, erosion, and ecosystem degradation.

Our toughest day of fauna trapping was ‘Day 1’, when we needed to "open the traps". This involved removing the caps on a series of pre-dug pitfall traps and setting up the netting fence-lines that would guide our critters into the traps. After this it was a matter of checking the traps both morning and evening within 2 hours of sunrise/sunset, placing our captives into calico bags, and bringing them back to the homestead office for identification and processing. All animals were released the very next trip back to their home range and point of capture.

I soon had an answer to my question “What fauna will we trap here?” as the marvellous finds from the pitfall traps rolled in each day. In total we caught and identified 158 individuals comprising 33 species (27 species of reptiles and 6 species of mammals).

The mammals included 3 species of dunnart, one species of planigale, and 2 species of native rodents. The reptiles were very diverse and included skinks, tiny Leristas or 'sand sliders', beautiful geckos such as the Knob-tailed Gecko, legless lizards, blind snakes, dragons such as the Crested and Central Netted Dragon, and snakes such as the gorgeous Jan's Banded Snake.

The dunnarts proved particularly tricky to identify into their correct species. You'd think the Fat-tailed Dunnart would be easy, wouldn't you? After all, surely, he has a ‘fat tail’? But this may not be so evident in dry times, when he's used up the fat he normally stores in his tail! What about the Stripe-faced Dunnart? Doesn't he have a ‘striped face’? Well, not always……And so it boils down to close scrutiny of the tiny pads of their tiny feet…prompting this off-the-cuff limerick by Graeme Finlayson:

These Dunnart I.D’s, they’re quite tough
With their foot pads all smooth….or quite rough?
But I’ll give you the mail
With a short, fattened tail
I tell you, enough is enough!

The highlight for many of us was the capture of two Thorny Devils. These scary-looking little guys are very rarely seen, so there was great excitement in the camp. Despite their fearsome appearance (and even more fearsome name – Moloch horridus) they're completely harmless and live entirely on little black ants. We speculated that they were a pair and hoped for many more little Molochs in the future.

Another highlight of the week was the creative input of all the volunteers at our final gathering. Some collected junk from the tip to create an ingenious interactive sculpture, others welded a unique sign for Bon Bon, and many were inspired to write a verse or two.

The following poem celebrates the under-appreciated Lerista. A very small sand swimming skink, Lerista’s have no fore-limbs and their hind limbs are very small (not very visible). Lerista labialis is the Two-toed Sand-slider and if you look closely, you can see it has in fact, got 2 tiny toes.

It was a fairly common finding in our pitfall traps… and they can take a bit of practice to safely remove without having them dropping their tail. After much discussion and thoughts on the origin of its latin name, volunteer extraordinaire, Meredith Geyer wrote this great poem. 

Lerista Barista, slid through hot sand
she was the lead singer, of her rock'n'roll band.

Lerista Barista was late for her gig,
they had a top booking, a chance to make big.

Lerista Barista took a short cut, 
fell into a bucket and went off her nut.

Lerista Barista was no easy catch, 
she ducked and she dived 'til bagged, labelled, and batched.

Lerista Barista put back on the dune, 
but with a dropped tail, she sang out of tune.

Lerista Barista, the band gave her the sack, 
she pouted her lips and yelled ‘I’ll be back!’

Bon-Bon has had below average rainfall for 2 years, and in November the rainfall to date for 2019 had been around one-third of the annual average. We wondered what effect this prolonged dry would have on the numbers and condition of the fauna trapped. However, most captures were in really good condition.

We also processed many geckoes that were pregnant (you could see the two large eggs they were carrying beneath the pale skin of their bellies), and a very rotund Central Netted Dragon that was very heavy with eggs.

We trapped a considerable number of juvenile animals which also means breeding is happening. The great surprise was, even though the country is dry and there has not been much rain, the number of species captured was only slightly lower than last year. Perhaps this is a testament to the resilience of this ecosystem and the species that live within it, especially when managed for conservation.

By the end of my visit to Bon Bon I had a much greater understanding and respect for this truly beautiful place. Contrary to my first impression, Bon Bon is alive with species and has a diverse landscape of shrublands, sand dunes, ephemeral wetlands, salt lakes, and even a couple of small 'mountains'. It would really be something to see it after big rain. 

A wonderful experience and thanks so much to on-site staff Kate, Clint, Sam, and Graeme (and also Georgie from Arid Recovery) for sharing it with us!

A face anyone could love – one of the dunnarts. Photo Gillian Carter. A face anyone could love – one of the dunnarts. Photo Gillian Carter.
A face only a mother could love – a Thorny Devil. Photo Gillian Carter. A face only a mother could love – a Thorny Devil. Photo Gillian Carter.
Kate holding the find of the week – a Thorny Devil. Photo Jenny Taylor. Kate holding the find of the week – a Thorny Devil. Photo Jenny Taylor.
An Australian Bustard seen on our visit. Photo Paul Bateman. An Australian Bustard seen on our visit. Photo Paul Bateman.
A beautiful Barking Gecko. Photo Andrew Wallis. A beautiful Barking Gecko. Photo Andrew Wallis.
A sculpture from the scrub made by the team 'Harry Butler's Disciples'. A sculpture from the scrub made by the team 'Harry Butler's Disciples'.
A Fat-tail Gecko. Photo Andrew Wallis. A Fat-tail Gecko. Photo Andrew Wallis.
Kate holding a young Sand Goanna. Photo Andrew Wallis. Kate holding a young Sand Goanna. Photo Andrew Wallis.
Lots of tracks around the pitfall traps. Photo June Uhrig. Lots of tracks around the pitfall traps. Photo June Uhrig.
Pregnant female Central Netted Dragon. Photo Andrew Wallis. Pregnant female Central Netted Dragon. Photo Andrew Wallis.
The fauna trapping team on Mt Ernest. Photo Jenny Taylor. The fauna trapping team on Mt Ernest. Photo Jenny Taylor.
The red sands of Australis Dune. Photo Jenny Taylor. The red sands of Australis Dune. Photo Jenny Taylor.

Related stories

BLOG 02/06/2023

Reduce, reuse, recycle this World Environment Day

For people living in cities and towns, rubbish removal is one of the many conveniences of life that we take for granted. We pop waste in our various bins and then wheel the bins out onto the road for the council trucks to pick up. But what about those who live remotely?

Read More

BLOG 13/07/2022

Bat monitoring in revegetation

Wayne and I have been at Bon Bon for 8 short months. I say short because it has not given her enough time to trust us completely with her secrets, not enough time to know how she works and what she wants from us, but enough time to feel her gratitude as Bush Heritage works to restore her to all she can be.

Read More

BLOG 28/03/2022

Just a load of rubbish... or is it?

Having come from a comfortable suburb with all the conveniences I took a lot of services for granted, including rubbish removal. Now we are living on reserve, things are not quite so easy. What is brought in reserve stays on reserve to be re-used, unless we can find another way to remove it.

Read More

BLOG 22/03/2022

Six new bee species from Bon Bon

A bee survey conducted in 2010 has yielded six new bee species. Identification isn’t always easy: there are 1650 described bee species, with keys to only half of them. For species not in keys, the only avenue is to compare them with type specimens in collections.

Read More

BLOG 04/03/2022

A Bon Bon weather report

We always talk about the weather, and lately there’s been a lot of it to talk about. In South Australia there have been significant rainfall events over most of the state’s arid lands. At Bon Bon we’ve had over 60 mm of rain over two weeks, which has changed the landscape in so many ways.

Read More

BLOG 21/02/2022

What’s in a wombat scat & why does it matter?

Bon Bon Station Reserve is home to what is believed to be the northern most population of Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats. This population also holds the distinction of existing in one of the lowest rainfall zones across the species’ distribution, recording an average of just 150 mm annually.

Read More

BLOG 18/02/2022

Grass, grass & more grass

While dust storms have been a regular occurrence across much of Australia's rangelands, at Bon Bon cryptogams are replacing heavily impacted bare soil and perennial grasses are coming back.

Read More

BLOG 12/11/2021

The devastating impact of rabbits

The Conversation recently published an article about the devastating impact that rabbits have had and continue to exert on Australia plants, wildlife and landscapes.

Read More

BLOG 11/06/2021

Monitoring vegetation cover remotely

I'm completing my PhD with the Spatial Sciences Group in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Adelaide in collaboration with Bush Heritage Australia. My research will be conducted at Bush Heritage’s Bon Bon and Boolcoomatta reserves in South Australian.

Read More

BLOG 03/12/2020

Living in the Woomera Prohibited Area

In the past four-and-a-half years living on Bon Bon Reserve, we've had to evacuate for rocket launches, live firing trials and now the return and landing of the Hayabusa II – a Japanese spacecraft carrying the Sample Return Capsule from the asteroid Ryugu!

Read More

BLOG 24/11/2020

Signs of post-drought recovery on Bon Bon

One of the most anticipated events on the calendar for our South Australian reserves is small vertebrate trapping. These surveys provide the opportunity to eyeball some of the lesser encountered critters that roam through our landscapes. This year on Bon Bon, after two years of drought we've finally had decent rainfall so we were all excited by what the surveys might find.

Read More
Sunset at Bon Bon Station Reserve. Photo Paul Bateman.

BUSHTRACKS 25/09/2020

Surprising centipedes

How a fox stomach containing 63 centipedes could hold the key to understanding the effectiveness of feral predator management.

Read More

BLOG 07/07/2020

Counting bunnies

European Rabbits have a high impact on our conservation targets at Bon Bon. They compete with native herbivores for resources, supress native vegetation and provide a reliable food source for foxes and cats.

Read More

BLOG 27/04/2020

Scats used to find what was on the menu

Eleven fox scats collected on Bon Bon Station Reserve by our South Australian Arid Rangelands Ecologist Graeme Finlayson late last year were sent away for analysis to get a better picture of what is on the menu at the reserve.

Read More

BLOG 02/03/2020

My fauna trapping experience

This year I was lucky enough to be accepted as a volunteer for the annual fauna trapping on Bon Bon Station Reserve. I'm a member of the 'Newcastle cluster' of Bush Heritage supporters – a small but keen group prepared to travel great distances to volunteer. So it was with great excitement that we set off on the long trek to Bon Bon in November.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

Battle for the bite sized

A landmark restoration project on Bon Bon is helping native species to bounce back.

Read More

BLOG 25/01/2019

You had me at gecko!

I volunteered at Bon Bon over Christmas and after my jobs were done around the homestead, my husband and I would take off with our head torch, camera, water and GPS and we wandered along the sandy tracks, in search of one of my favourite reptiles - geckos.

Read More

BLOG 26/09/2018

Wombats through time and space

My early days as a wildlife ecologist were spent driving around spotlighting on the back of a ute in the Murraylands of South Australia, chasing down Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats to learn what we could about this iconic Australian species. For me it was a life-shaping experience.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 10/09/2018

My Happy Place (Kate Taylor)

Sitting under this Western Myall and looking out over the salt lake is one of my favourite spots to stop for lunch and is luckily exactly the halfway mark when I do my rounds, checking the camera monitoring grid on Bon Bon Station Reserve.

Read More

BLOG 15/08/2018

10 years at Bon Bon Station Reserve

Bon Bon is within the traditional lands of the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara community and this year marks 10 years since Bush Heritage Australia acquired the Bon Bon Station pastoral lease.

Read More

BLOG 01/02/2018

The mystery songster

I work in the Bush Heritage Melbourne office but for 3 weeks of January, along with my colleague Paul Young, I took up a caretaking role at Bon Bon Station Reserve in northern South Australia. Besides continuing with the work we normally do at the Melbourne office, we took on caretaking tasks around the reserve. Caretaking at Bon Bon Reserve could not have been more fun for a couple of novice birdos.

Read More

BLOG 09/12/2017

Fauna surveys that rock your senses!

Is there such a thing as having too much fun in conservation work? We don't think so ... We had it ALL last week during the reptile and small mammal survey event on Bon Bon Station Reserve.

Read More

BLOG 10/08/2017

Processionary caterpillars

Kate Taylor and husband Clint live on and manage our Bon Bon Reserve (SA). She recently noticed these creepy and dangerous sacks - home to Processionary Catepillars (Ochrogaster lunifer).

Read More

BLOG 24/07/2017

The caretaking experience of a lifetime

When the chance presented itself to caretake Bon Bon Station Reserve, Michael ​Uhrig jumped at the opportunity. He got on the phone and asked his mother June to join him - remote caretaking roles have a minimum requirement of two people, in-line with basic remote area safety protocols - you always need backup!

Read More

BLOG 26/03/2017

Erosion rehab success

Various infiltration and soil erosion mitigation techniques have been applied in some areas on Bon Bon Station Reserve over the past few years, where we've had the tools (and advice) available to start a repair process. We've some attached photos here to show the results so far.

Read More

BLOG 21/03/2017

Aquatic animals in dry climate

While taking a walk around a clay pan we were very surprised to see a small snail in a tiny puddle of water leftover from the last rain. Our species list for aquatic (or water-loving) species is very short, as this is one of the driest habitable landscapes in Australia.

Read More

BLOG 27/02/2017

Small vertebrate trapping on Bon Bon

At Bon Bon Station Reserve (South Australia) in the country's arid zone, there's a lot of baseline data being collected. One of these data sets is on the abundance and diversity of small mammals and reptile species that live in some of Australia's most harsh conditions.

Read More

BLOG 13/11/2016

Horrible monster discovered at Bon Bon

While out in the field on Bon Bon Reserve, where I work as a Field Officer, Aaron Fenner (South Australian Rangeland Alliance Ecologist) and I were super excited to spot this amazing lizard – Moloch horridus, otherwise well known as the 'Thorny Devil'. It's a new species record for the reserve!

Read More

BLOG 26/10/2016

Botanical bonanza

An amazing array of yellows, white, purples, blue-greens and reds have recently brightened the often subdued colours of the arid-zone landscapes across outback South Australia.

Read More

BLOG 09/03/2016

A volunteer partnership at Bon Bon

Peter and Margie Calder are much valued volunteers. Over the past few years they've volunteered over 20 weeks of their time to their 'local reserve' – Bon Bon Station (it's only a day's drive away). They wrote this blog entry after completing their 8th placement at Bon Bon.

Read More

BLOG 07/01/2016

Notes on nature - Looking back on 2015

It's time to look back on 2015 and share some of the seasonal happenings and everyday events that shaped the year at Bon Bon Station Reserve. It's a real privilege to live and work in this amazing arid environment and to have the opportunity to experience and interact with nature.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 21/12/2015

Line of fire

Out on Bon Bon Station Reserve, the heat can sear your skin and leave you breathless. And yet this massive piece of land, which rivals the size of Sydney, is home to some of Australia’s most extraordinary creatures like the southern hairy-nosed wombat and the rare chestnut breasted whiteface. Here's how we manage wildfire risk for Bon Bon’s diverse plants and animals.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 21/09/2015

Battling buffel to protect our desert jewel

Bon Bon Station Reserve in South Australia is a true outback marvel, an expansive landscape dotted with shimmering salt lakes, red dune sands supporting mulga trees, open ironstone plains studded with stately myall trees and stunningly beautiful expanses of pearl bluebush. Our challenge is to protect it from invasive Buffel Grass.

Read More

BLOG 02/06/2015

Babblers group birdwatching

Two new bird species have been added to the Bon Bon bird list by a group of 19 dedicated bird watchers who volunteered some time at Bon Bon to check up on the local bird life over the Easter weekend.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

New feral monitoring data

A new long-term monitoring program using remote infra-red cameras on both Boolcoomatta and our Bon Bon Reserve will help protect vulnerable natives such as the plains wanderer from feral foxes and cats.

Read More
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}