OK – where do I even start? It’s been 6 months between blogs so it will be hard to catch up, but here goes....
First of all, I’d like to welcome my latest koala recruits from the April Earthwatch trip – Jo, Jann, Ruth, and Sarah; with Viki and Chris joining us from Earthwatch. You guys totally rock! I can’t believe the amount of data you collected for me, and as for the laughs..... absolutely priceless. I will miss you. I hope one day you will be able to visit again.
|The April crew helping find tagged trees at Aire River|
The April Earthwatch crew helped me catch all the koalas and fit GPS loggers and accelerometers to their collars. We then collected hours of observations to match with the accelerometer data. Unlike in November, the koalas didn’t do much other than sleep, rest and scratch. We had to venture out in the evening to get feeding and interaction observations. We also completed a census at Bimbi (we are now at 18.8 koalas/hectare!), the never-ending tree assessments, and visited the Parker Hill blue gums (April 2011 participants would remember that site!). We didn’t get lost but Jo managed to pick up a few leeches that really liked her flavour.
|One of Jo's blood-filled leeches|
We also visited Aire River and Bimb West to do some habitat work. A highlight for me was hiking back from Aire River along the Great Ocean trail. Amazing views!
|Great Ocean Walk - looking back to Aire River|
We also started on the general biodiversity monitoring component of the project. We (well.... the EW crew) set up 13 remote cameras in manna gum woodland and got some great photos of rats, mice, possums and wallabies.
|"Do you think my butt looks big?"|
|"Hey - I got it"|
|"This smells really good"|
|"Hmmm... what is this thing?"|
|"Oops... I think I've been sprung"|
And the data keeps rolling in..... Shaun (honours student) has done an amazing job of analysing a large part of the data and just submitted his thesis on home range and habitat use by koalas. Well done Shaun! Shaun and I will now start working on a manuscript for publication.
As for the koalas....
We removed the collars from the Aire River koalas in February. This site was hard work and there didn’t seem to be much point in continuing after the end of the breeding season. Thankfully, Juliet who normally hangs in a tea-tree over the river, chose that day to be in an easy to access location so she was the first to lose her collar. Unfortunately, Clive was way out the back so it was a bit of an effort to get the catching gear in to him. It was a looooooonnnng day.
The Bimbi koalas keep us entertained with their interactions and movements and have been providing good data. Brendan appeared to be the dominant boy throughout the breeding season and did a good job of keeping most males away from the girls. We never collared him but he was always easy to identify by the old fight wound on his shoulder. Unfortunately for him, being the alpha male was not good for this old injury. We watched it get progressively worse and in January, I found what I assumed to be his carcass at the bottom of Princess’ tree. RIP Brendan L
Dave is still hanging around, often sitting in the trees at our lunch spot. During this last trip, he was a bit befuddled to find us sitting at the base of his tree. He eventually worked out that he could walk around us to get to the tree... Dave doesn’t seem to be very bright but is still one of my favourites J
Tony Parker has become somewhat of a legend. His new collar failed (battery problems?) in February only a few days after catching him and fitting it. So, one of our tasks for the April Earthwatch group was to find Tony P and get his collar sorted out. Alas, Tony P was nowhere to be seen and my new Earthwatch crew looked somewhat sceptically at me every time I mentioned Tony’s name. Was Tony P even real? They became even more sceptical when we caught an animal I swore was Tony P, only to find he was definitely not. Oh well, now we have a new koala named Erik. More about Erik later....
I finally found Tony P on Monday and was understandably excited. Weather was not amenable to catching so we had to wait to catch him on Tuesday. He had lost his collar (unfortunately with GPS and accelerometer) but the green 101 eartag gave him away. Chris was lucky enough to help catch the stubborn boy and learned how to flag. Tony P was eventually persuaded to come to the ground. He continued to give us attitude while he was in the bag but we managed to get a new collar on him and released him back to his new favourite tree.
|Tony Parker - not looking too comfy on that stick.|
Erik... Erik is feisty (and that’s an understatement). Erik tried really hard to attack me once we had him out of the tree. He threw himself at me several times and it was an effort to get him in the bag. He even caused problems when in the bag. He left his mark on Viki’s hand.
Buffy... this girl loves to run. She started moving when she saw me climbing the tree and before Viki and I knew it, Buffy was on the ground running. I was yelling ‘Run, Viki, run. Run faster!’ and Viki was running after her but Buffy was faster. Thankfully, Buffy did not make a wise choice of what tree to climb so we were able to easily catch her from the ground.
Ruby, Princess, Claire, and Nelly are all doing well. Nelly’s bub ‘Georgie’ now weighs 2.3kg so is getting close to leaving home. Claire’s bub ‘Charlotte’ is now independent but still likes to keep close to her mum. Claire appears to remember me and flags no longer encourage her down the tree. I had to climb to a point above her to make her move. We also still see Lucie and Emily in the site. Emily is almost as big as her mum now.
Bruce, Wally, and Kevin look fairly ‘spent’ after the breeding season. Kevin is still happily lusting after the girls though. We watched him try with Lucie and on another occasion with a very small, untagged female. Neither attempts were successful though. Another male ‘Scar’ has moved into the site. This male has suffered a horrific facial injury in the past... hence his name. I saw this male in January 2011 when the injury looked to be new. I didn’t think he’d survive but it appears he’s doing alright. At least, we observed him trying his luck with Princess (no success though).
The next Earthwatch trip is in October but I will be tracking our koalas every two weeks (at least) until then. I’ll try to keep you better informed as to what they are doing. Until next time....