Always try hitting it with a hammer

October 9
Got up before dawn, jumped on a quick breakfast, and headed out in the cars before sunrise to reach the control, non-burned study site. Checked the 150 traps and caught one black rat, or maybe we caught the rat the day before, it is all a bit vague at the moment. In any case, they are not native to Australia and we should have killed it but we let it go.

The folks working on the bats got out their antennae tracking devices and spent the morning trying to locate where the three bats had set up to roost. Once that task had been accomplished, they set up small electronic data loggers that receive each bat’s signal and from that, determine the body temperature of the bat. This is done wirelessly, for the rate of the tracking signal changes as the bat goes in or out of torpor.

The rest of us checked the harp traps for lodged bats and bird watched in the background all along to update the bird survey list. We also packed up all 150 traps and prepared to move operations to a new location in the park. Took a couple hours to do all this stuff and when we were done we headed out of the park and back to the campground to have coffee, clean up, organize stuff, and generally rest up for the evening trek back into the park. Our camper fridge was not working on the propane setting and so we took it apart, trying to trouble shoot why it was buggered up. In the end I suggested that we rap on the solenoid valve that regulates the gas flow. Low and behold, the hammer trick worked :-). So when in doubt, and during times of last resort, try hitting things with a hammer!

So the evening shift began around 3:00. We drove about half an hour into the park to a site that had been mildly burned. Most trees had been able to resprout vegetation since the fire. Wild flowers were abundant and beautiful. We each took a box of 25 traps and headed up various gullies to bait and set. The bait is a mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal. Then on the valley floor we set up three of the bat catching harp traps that I described before, five mist nets on tall poles, and three tube traps for catching sugar gliders. These are made from four inch diameter PVC pipe and look a bit like a submarine periscope. Ropes are fixed over high tree limbs, the devices are baited with honey and oatmeal in a little cup, and then hoisted up and tied off. The idea is that a sugar glider will smell the treat, climb into the vertical tube, and slide the three feet down to the reward, but unable to climb out for the plastic pipe offers no traction.

Everything went well and our evening was complete by a showing of five choughs anting, we think. The birds pick up ants in their beaks and rub the formic acid from the ants onto their skin to ward off parasites. At least that’s what people think anting is all about. It happens in the States too; I’ve seen a type of woodpecker called a flicker do it. We got home about 10:30, took a quick shower and tanked into the land of noddddddd.

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