Friday, January 14, 2011

koala survey...

"We're going on a bear hunt.... we're gonna catch a BIG one....

I'm not scared... it's a be-ut-ee-ful day"

EJ looves singing that toon - and today as I was trudging up hill and down (a very sweaty affair in the  muggy heat) I couldn't get the song out of my head! But as EJ would tell you - I wasn't really going on a bear hunt - today I was off on a KOALA hunt - and koala's aren't BEARS!

Our property borders the kooraban national park - and lucky us, a very small (tiny really) population of koalas has been found as part of a massive koala survey of gulaga, mumbulla and kooraban parks (and the koala population here in the kooraban has been found VERY close to our place - in fact we HEARD one a few months ago - which excited the heck out of us.... have you ever heard one? MY GOODNESS for a small animal they can make a big, scary noise!)

Today I went into the bush from our place with Chris Allen from National Parks and Wildlife... he was about to show me all about koala surveying... first things first....

koala poo...

 koala pellets - I reckon you'd describe the shape as bullet-like and the big thing I learned was that koala poo breaks smoothly in pieces - that's because koalas munch munch munch of those eucalypt leaves so the particles are really fine...

I never thought I'd get all excited about the prospect of spending a day scouring the ground for poop...

But I'm getting ahead of myself - first we had to walk in to the co-ordinates (surveys are done with scientific precision!)

I looked at the topo map. I felt good. I KNEW I could find this place. And, anyway, Chris had a compass, and a map, and a GPS thingy that you punched the co-ordinates into and it would let you know that you had to go 'x' metres in 'x' direction to reach your destination (I've never walked in the bush with a compass and a map and a GPS thingy.... wheee this would be FUN)

I started us off (in of course the opposite direction to what the GPS thingy said....) we walked up and up and up the hill (in what I knew was a gentler grade) into the forest behind our place, then across the hill .... then I gave Chris a look that was meant as the equivalent of 'you have reached your destination'. Chris was not convinced. GPS demanded that we walk 200m NE (I was starting to resent the GPS... how dare it show up my lack of map-skill) But I'm not one to argue with a machine. And then a bull ant entered my boot and bit my foot (I removed boot, removed ant, blamed GPS). On we walked. Up to the edge a steep gully. I was feeling terribly embarrassed by now that I stuffed up and obviously had no idea where we were meant to be (and my foot hurt... ) as a result of my stooopidity now we had to slide down a hill, crawl over a slippery creek and crawl up the the side of the gully. THEN I realised -  after an hour of heavy bushwalking, the GPS had led us to a spot only a few metres into the bush from one of our paddocks

I now wanted to and bury myself - yet I plucked up the courage to request a look at the topo map (surely I couldn't be this stoopid). I looked and things just didn't add up.

oops GPS was set to wrong co-ordinates. GPS reset - off we went (again)

we walked out of bush - back down gully, over creek, up other side of gully, up, up, up the hill and there we were...... about 10m away from were I had put us (before the gully adventure).... I looked at the GPS very smugly....

NOW we could get going.

A midpoint tree was set and identified with tape...


Clockwise from this tree we had to find a further 29 trees with a diameter greater than 150mm that were closest to and surrounding our mid tree - as we went, these were marked with tape also. These were to be our survey trees.

(Chris had a nifty tape that converted the trees circumference to diameter reading.... noice!)

We donned gloves - it was time to get down and dirty. Looking for koalas, I quickly learned, was all about scouring the ground for scat... and by scour I mean moving every bit of leaf litter for more than metre circumference around every survey tree.... lifting the litter, shaking the litter, peering deeply deeply into the litter for those little koala bullets...

after the first few trees the term 'needle in a haystack' took on a WHOLE new meaning. After all the tree base was scoured for signs of koala, the tree diameter and species was recorded and off we went to the next tree.

I found some fabbo fungi....

Chris showed me what he identified as old koala scratch marks on one of our big survey trees....

(can you see the few diagonal scratches?)

after checking all 30 trees which took about 3 hours... nope no sign of koalas in this plot

so was I disappointed?

nope not a little bit. I learned so much - not just about koalas (koalas can tell the toxicity of individual trees..... fancy that!) - and about tree identification (goodness it is a tough thing to tell one Eucalypt from another!) and that I'm not bothered by bull ant bites (and I'm a wimp - so that was a big discovery) that I enjoy scratching around in the dirt looking for scat... I'm planning on volunteering for more koala plots in the survey... (maybe NEXT time I'll find the allusive koala poo...)

now it's time for a shower (I'm grubby and smelly... and I have just discovered a leech bite on the other leg.... who knows how many other freeloaders I might have lurking in body crevices.....) I suppose there has to be a down side to some things...



  1. What fun Ronnie, and a great story...thanks for posting

  2. WOW!
    I loved reading and seeing through your eyes your koala survey experience!

  3. Tell you what, Ronnie, you're SuperWoman. Nothing seems to daunt you, not the bull ant, not the leech! I think I can deal with the bull ant but I do have a problem with leeches. Koalas of Australia can be proud of you.

  4. very cool ronnie, hope you find would be very nice seeing as what you are doing with your place at the of luck.

  5. How exciting to know you have koalas, somewhere nearby!

    Love the photo of that fungi. It looks marine-like. x


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx