After a five hour drive westward, through the towns of Armidale, Tamworth, and Coonabarabran we arrived at our destination of Tooraweenah, a rather tiny Australian town set on the edge of wheat growing country and the Warrumbungle National Park. Shortly after arrival to the caravan park, that’s a camping ground in Australia, our colleague Fritz arrived and we and his team headed out to the park to begin the survey work.
We set up 150 live small mammal traps (Elliott traps, believe it or not) on a gridline up the ridge in various locations as well as bat traps that are called harp traps. These traps have two poles that stick upwards about six or eight feet apart, plus crossbars at the top and bottom. Strung vertically, about every inch or two are thin segments of fishing line. Underneath it all is a wide bag affair. The idea is that a bat flies into the fishing line, slides straight down and ends up in the bag. We also set up five or six 15-18 meter long mist nets. These look a bit like a volleyball net, but made up of super-fine mesh that birds or bats hopefully cannot detect. When an animal flies into one of these nets, they get caught in the baggy nature of the net and remain there until you work them out. These nets need to be monitored.
Placing the 150 live traps entailed smearing a bit of peanut butter on the spring door and dropping a hunk inside the trap. We put them out in batches of 25 and they are numbered successively. Trap number 18 is placed after trap number 17, but before trap number 19. This is important for the traps are left out all night and checked at dawn the following morning. The fact that they are numbered, and in proper order, means that as you go from one to the next, you won’t miss one for they are sometimes hard to see, being put near a log or under a big rock. You wouldn’t want to miss one in case it had an animal in it.
After all this was done, it was about dark. While some monitored the nets, others went spot lighting for mammals and birds in the trees, possible because of eye shine. We only saw two ring tailed possums and only heard a few species of birds. They all get added to the inventory list that becomes part of the project data base. By 9:30 or so we were done, got all packed up, and piled into the two cars for the ten mile run back to town. Very tired, I pretty much fell asleep with a peanut butter sandwich between my teeth!