One of our most popular volunteer activities is coming up on Saturday May 31st. The survey, which monitors trends in the Lyrebird population involves an early start. The meeting place is at the Tarra Bulga National Park Visitors Centre at 6.15 am. On arrival the recording process is explained and people are allocated to various monitoring points around the Bulga Park area.
The survey begins at sunrise with the first Lyrebird calls and only takes half an hour. Following the morning chorus, a free cooked breakfast is on offer at the Tarra-Bulga Guest House. If you would like to come along you need to contact ranger Craig Campbell (by Wednesday May the 28th on 5172 2508 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Wear warm clothing, a parka, bring a watch, a torch and compass (optional).
Here’s a breakdown for you all showing the species that triggered our remote cameras last year. The lower number of detection in the later part of the year can be explained by a few issues that we had with dodgy SD cards causing the batteries to conk out prematurely. Can’t explain why the Wallaby numbers vary so much each month. Some of the other species e.g. Lyrebirds, seem much more evenly represented over the year.
Breakdown of Remote Camera
Triggers – Tarra Bulga National Park 2013
In February we placed a camera in a new site along the Grand Ridge Rd, in vegetation that was not typical old growth Mountain Ash forest, but rather sad looking regrowth scrub. As a result we didn’t have high expectations as to what fauna we’d find in this habitat. Surprisingly though it’s a very popular spot, especially with ground dwelling birds (must be lots of food) and we obtained some fantastic images. All up the camera was triggered on 165 separate occasions, see the table below for more details)
In addition there were 26 birds that triggered the camera not able to be identified from the image quality to species level.
The recent news involving a Sea Eagle flying off with a remote camera in the Kimberley has inspired us to put together this video of a Superb Lyrebird, that seemed to think the reflection in the front of the camera was a rival and hence went to war. This happened in September 2012 and thankfully we have not had a repeat. However we did stop putting cameras quite so close to the ground.
After some very windy and cold weather at the end of winter including the snow of only a week and a half ago, the last day of winter was almost perfect. The first day of Spring tomorrow also promises to be just as good. Calm winds and blue skies made today a gem of a day to be at Tarra Bulga. Birds were all around, and spring flowers were starting to bloom. The Silver Wattles were bright yellow and sections of the walking tracks were covered in fallen Sassafras flowers. A Male Lyrebird landing on a tree just above my head was a breathtaking moment on such an ideal day to be in such a magnificent place.
I have produced some stats to go with the latest update from our remote camera sites, hopefully it adds to the information we are getting from the monitoring sites.
Camera 1 was but back in action after the Lyrebird attack a bit later than the others. It was placed around one of the original camera sites in a location I will call Balook Central. There was an alarming amount of Fox activity at this Camera, also no sign of Long-nosed Bandicoots which have been common at this site before (hopefully the 2 factors are not related). Note that in each graph when I am talking about Brushtail Possums it could be either the Common Brushtail or the Mountain (Bobuck) variety. I am not sure that it is possible to tell them apart from the remote camera photos.
Camera 2 – Had a lot of bird activity, with lots of little brown birds that given their size, picture quality or the way they were facing, they were often hard to positively Identify. But there was certainly one or more active White-browed Scrub-wrens. The site was relatively quiet compared to past results. A tree branch falling in front of the Camera half-way through the monitoring period may have been a reason for this. No sign of any Bandicoots but plenty of Antechinus and other Rodent species (probably Rattus fuscipes – Bush Rat ) but hard to identify just with the photos. Anthechinus have pointed snouts and their ears are thin with a notch in the middle. Rats have rounded ears. Sometimes it was impossible to tell whether it was an Antechinus or a Rat from the photos so in those instances, I have just called them unidentified small mammals.
Camera 3 – Had a lot of Small Mammal activity but not so many larger ones. Possibly due to the camera positioning and location. Lots of good shots an Antechinus Species (Could either be the Dusky Antechinus or the Agile Antechinus but impossible really to tell them apart from the photos. The Rattus species are probably Bush Rats, one way to tell is by their tail length, which in native rats is usually shorter than their body length.
Monitoring Results for Tarra Bulga South Central site.
Camera 4 – I thought there must have been some sort of camera malfunction when I collected this camera from the field, there were over 9000 photos on the card. After looking through I found that the camera was working fine it was just an extremely busy site, especially for Swamp Wallabies, where as you can see by the graph they visited the site over 250 times over 2 months. Many times it was the same Joey with its family group which made for some cute photos with it bounding around. The site was in a fairly open clearing so it must have been a really favorite camping spot for them. In one situation a Swamp Wallaby was photographed while a Brushtailed Possum looked on from a tree trunk. In addition to the Wallabies, we had Long Nosed Bandicoots and Lyrebirds. Look for the photo when a Lyrebird goes past and then a minute later a Fox is seen leaping through the air in the direction it went. Also look for the photos of the Fox with some prey in its mouth, I can’t tell what it is but it is about Bandicoot Size. Also a fair bit of Feral Cat activity at this site.
Camera 5- This camera was obviously pointing at a favourite habitat for Bassian Thrushes, as they were the most common species here. They are often hard to spot in the photos as they are well camouflaged.
Camera 6- This site is on a ridge amongst large Tree-ferns, with a thick leaf litter. It has lots of Lyrebirds scratching around and plenty of Foxes prowling around.
Camera 7 – This site, although mainly scrubby and lacking in canopy trees, had a lot of activity as can be seen from the graph. Our best site for Long-nose Bandicoots this time and plenty of Lyrebird activity.
Camera 8 – This area seems to get a Ring-tailed possum every time we put a camera around there. Not as busy as some of the other sites but it had a good mix of species with not too many introduced predators visiting. Interestingly when I got to the camera out of the ground litter popped a real live Antechinus which did a couple of little circuits only a couple of metres from where I was standing before it disappeared again, just as I had my (regular) camera ready to shoot. Most likely it was a Dusky Antechinus which are said to be more likely to be active during the daytime (as opposed to the Agile Antechinus). Amazingly there was not one confirmed photo of an Antechinus on the Remote Camera that had been at that site for 2 months.
Less than ideal conditions beckoned for this years count, indeed when I woke up at 5.15 am and heard the rain pelting down on the roof, I fired up the computer and checked the rain radar and saw that it was going to continue to bucket down, (especially at Balook) for the foreseeable future. I put the text through to Ranger Craig, who soon phoned back and told me the decision had been made given the weather to postpone. He said he would go up anyway just in case anyone turned up, and I returned to bed.
Much to my surprise, 2 days later I heard the news, that when Craig arrived at the Visitors Centre there was quite a crowd, who despite the weather were raring to go (much kudos to those hardy souls).
Reports suggest that the inclement weather may have influenced the survey, with several sites unusually recording no calls whatsoever. There were however Lyrebirds around with reports of a group foraging directly in front of the Visitors Centre. Possibly the much needed rain produced ideal conditions for the birds to feed, so inconveniently the boys were more focused on filling their stomachs, rather than attracting the ladies with their fancy calls. Despite the visual sightings, only two male birds within the survey area could be properly counted using our call based technique. Hopefully the drop in numbers can be attributable to the conditions, rather than more sinister reasons such as increased fox numbers. In any case I am sure we will be back next year with hopefully more favourable conditions to do it all again. I also hope that despite the conditions that the hardy survey team had a great morning and the usual scrumptious breakfast at the guest house.
PS. To any of the attendees that braved the conditions and got a good photo of any aspect of the morning, it would be great if you could forward it on, so we could add it to this report.