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Starting them young!

Graeme Finlayson (Ecologist)
Published 09 Nov 2021 
about  Boolcoomatta Reserve  

Volunteer Tamara Potter showing Ellie and Isla how animals are retrieved from a pitfall trap<br/> Volunteer Tamara Potter showing Ellie and Isla how animals are retrieved from a pitfall trap
Ivy's first dunnart with proud parents Graeme and Tamara<br/> Ivy's first dunnart with proud parents Graeme and Tamara
Ellie and Isla releasing a planigale<br/> Ellie and Isla releasing a planigale
Geri Tschirner with a dunnart<br/> Geri Tschirner with a dunnart
Graeme and Isla with a Bynoe's Gecko. Photo by Dana Miles<br/> Graeme and Isla with a Bynoe's Gecko. Photo by Dana Miles
Graeme showing Isla a skink. Photo by Dana Miles<br/> Graeme showing Isla a skink. Photo by Dana Miles
The critter camp trapping gang. Photo by Dana Miles<br/> The critter camp trapping gang. Photo by Dana Miles
A Two-toned Blind Snake. Photo by Tamara Potter<br/> A Two-toned Blind Snake. Photo by Tamara Potter

This year’s fauna monitoring at Boolcoomatta Reserve, also termed Critter Camp, was another success with a great bunch of volunteers gathering to peer inside traps for a week.

Fauna trapping is a great way to engage volunteers and the community, with a suite of critters on show that are rarely seen without digging holes in the ground.

This year was all the more special for me and my partner Tamara, also an accomplished ecologist. Tamara is currently on maternity leave from her role with TERN so she was able to join me with our two month old daughter Ivy to experience the occasion. I’m sure this early exposure will not be a waste as Ivy got to experience the dry air, a range of unique smells and, her first Dunnart!

Like two years ago, we held the event during school holidays so were able to be joined by some families, including some familiar faces, the Tschirner mob, and long-term volunteers, Tony and Meredith, as well as some repeat volunteers and their young children (Dana Miles and daughters, Ellie and Isla), Plains Wanderer intern Saskia and volunteers Nikki and Peri, both also repeat volunteers to Boolcoomatta.

Its always a buzz for me to see the enthusiasm that children have when it comes to events like these in the outdoors. Sometimes enthusiasm wanes (particularly during setup or pack up) but generally it’s not that hard to engage and form some connection to these amazing wild landscapes.

The last trapping event in 2019 was conducted during the severe regional drought. During that survey capture rates were low but the species list we found during that week highlighted the resilience of the species that live in these areas of South Australia. This year, with improved conditions we were eagerly awaiting a bounty of animals. Unfortunately the temperature during the week remained quite cool, so unsurprisingly the reptile numbers were low.

Despite these conditions we still recorded 19 species of reptiles, with skinks such as the Pale-rumped Ctenotus (Ctenotus regius) and the Sandplain Ctenotus (Ctenotus schomburgkii) the most common species trapped. Other species such as the Centralian Barded Dragon and Shingleback were not trapped but were seen as we moved around the property. One interesting capture was a new record for the property, a Two-toned Blind Snake (Anilios bicolor).

Mammal numbers were higher than the previous survey in 2019 with 13 species in total recorded during the survey week ranging from an Echidna (captured on a motion sensor camera) to three different carnivorous marsupials (Stripe-faced and Fat-tailed Dunnart, and Narrow-nosed Planigale), Bolam’s Mouse (Pseudomys bolami), as well as introduced species such as house mice, rabbits and feral goats.

A few of this year’s volunteers were also keen birders so we kept a bird list throughout the week, which accumulated 72 species, most excitingly this included a sighting of the critically endangered Plains Wanderer during nocturnal spotlighting trips across the eastern plains, for the keener ones amongst us who managed to survive the week on a much reduced sleep plan!

Ivy's first dunnart with proud parents Graeme and Tamara<br/> Ivy's first dunnart with proud parents Graeme and Tamara
Ellie and Isla releasing a planigale<br/> Ellie and Isla releasing a planigale
Geri Tschirner with a dunnart<br/> Geri Tschirner with a dunnart
Graeme and Isla with a Bynoe's Gecko. Photo by Dana Miles<br/> Graeme and Isla with a Bynoe's Gecko. Photo by Dana Miles
Graeme showing Isla a skink. Photo by Dana Miles<br/> Graeme showing Isla a skink. Photo by Dana Miles
The critter camp trapping gang. Photo by Dana Miles<br/> The critter camp trapping gang. Photo by Dana Miles
A Two-toned Blind Snake. Photo by Tamara Potter<br/> A Two-toned Blind Snake. Photo by Tamara Potter