Wonders of Wildlife Ecotour – New Year
See Wildlife Research
Wonders of Wildlife Adventure, New Years Eve 2005/2006- a personal reflection
Would you like to spend New Year’s Eve gazing at Little Forest Bats weighing not more than an empty matchbox? Watch in summer heat as they leave their cold old gold mine shafts hidden behind tree ferns on their nightly forage? Then lie on your back absorbing a huge starlit sky? When Jenny tells me how she will be spending New Year, I think, “Yes, Wonders of Wildlife is for me, too!” So, I spend the turn of the year in the bush, far off from the usual hype
A novice to wildlife research, but not to hiking, I hear more names, facts and figures over three days than it is possible to absorb in a years study; so generous with their knowledge are Jenny, Raz and Christine. I join the beginner’s class yet again, once more out of my comfort zone. As someone who is delighted by new enthusiasms, I am excited. Not yet can I distinguish between a white-naped, white-eared or yellow-tufted honeyeater, but I am hoping. This connection with Jenny’s Gippsland High Country Tours offers an appreciation of Gippsland wildlife and hiking in the high country not before available to me.
The Haunted Stream sign is concealed; appropriate for ghosts I think and wonder how it got its name. We drive through a bull paddock, up and down a rough gravel track cut into the steep hillside. It is hot and dry as we stop in a cloud of red dust. Our grassy campsite is by the stream. I hear the engine no more. Only wind, birds and water interrupt the big silence. It is over 42C ‘in the shade’. I go down to the babbling stream. There is water enough to fill a swimming hole, in parts over two metres deep. It is deliciously cool and wet. I float on my back, blissed out, head half in the water. I watch as leaves high overhead dance in the soft breeze, then bark shave and drift slowly from branches. Buoyant in this watery silence, I sense visually and kinaesthetically as cool silk moves gently over me and on downstream.
The bush envelops, surrounds, bringing unique sounds, smells and vistas – the trees are tall, the sky big and signs of human settlement rare. What is it about the bush that invites time to expand and days lengthen? At Haunted Stream but an afternoon yet it feels like a week. The book I had been reading in the city seems irrelevant here. At Stirling, up the track a bit, I stand in the ruins of the Retreat Hotel. I wonder on the life of the woman, Margaret Cooney, who managed it – two husbands, twelve children and a pub – does this take particular courage and endurance? Then more questions – what was life like for women in the gold rush days? What attitudes and values informed the miners? What were their hopes and dreams? What were their setbacks? Did they realise the gold they found, while bringing wealth, would diminish this resource permanently? How long did it take for the bush to reclaim the land and rivers?
As we rumble over the rocky track to leave we pass a myriad of grasses identified by Raz, while a goanna or two use the cleared road for transit. Raz helps me understand and reflect on the endangered Victorian Brush-Tailed Rock-Wallaby. Saving the Shadow is the recovery program for this engaging, extraordinarily agile, shy creature. (www.vicrockwallaby.com) Have a look!
by B. Heyward (Vic)
Wonders of Wildlife
Five intrepid adventurers: Maria, Sally, Julie, Jenny A and I set off on a Monday with our guides Jenny Edwards, Jim & Christine. We all had our own particular interests that Jenny was careful to find out about early so the trip could be arranged around them.
My favourite part of the trip was the animal research project. The opportunity to trap bats and bush rats as well as to collect information on other animals in the study areas was exciting, interesting and worthwhile. Not having a science background, I was pleasantly surprised at how much information I could absorb from Jenny and Jim. They regularly pointed our features of interest and their knowledge of animal, bird, plant and insect life was extensive.
I have ended the trip with a greater appreciation of the beauty of the Australian bush and mountain regions and it will be no surprise to my fellow travellers if I remain a bat fanatic for the rest of my life. I’ve already booked myself into a bat workshop in February!
S. Zele (Vic) December 2002
A memorable New Year
The highlight for me of The wonders of Wildlife Ecotour was the setting and checking of the traps and the “processing” of the wildlife we caught.
How could a small animal resist the peanut butter goodie spread on a bed of bark of leaves – kept fresh and dry in an Elliott trap? With great excitement we loaded, placed and tagged the traps to await with anticipation the next morning’s catch – one lucky well fed bush rat!! It had our total attention while held firmly by Jenny as it was weighed, sexed, measured and aged.
Setting the harp traps was quite an education. Our first captures were found in the early evening snuggled up together warmth. Seven different bat species was caught and all were surprisingly small and very cute! They were transferred into a cloth “bank bag” and kept warm against a human chest. Each individual was process with weight, size, sex and age recorded. If lactating they were released immediately to return to their young. We were delighted to have such close encounters with Chocolate Wattled, Southern Large and Small Forest Bats. Also Broad-nosed and Lesser Long-eared Bats. What a delight to release them from warm hands in the evening and watch them circling while sensing their direction home.
Discovering many frogs along the stream was another great surprise, but we didn’t need trips – “just lift the stones”.
To be so close to nature, in such a beautiful place was a privilege indeed. Thanks Jenny, Jim, April and Christine for an amazing, stimulating and unforgettable holiday.
R. Akie (Vic) New Year 2001/02