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Entry 23A - Echidna's Second week

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23A - Australia Diary – May 9 – July 13 – Eighth Week – Kangaroo Island #2.


Saturday, July 1

Rained all night.

2nd week start – in the past has been a day of weird energy for me and an adjustment back to work after a day off. We will see.

Linzee made hot oatmeal for breakfast that was welcome after a cold rainy night.

Am tasks found Peggy teaching Pat and I how to download the data loggers that had been measuring burrow temperature, temperature of the animal, and exterior air temperature for the goannas, DJ and Afro that Pat had located two days ago. It snizzled rain all morning. As the data loggers were connected to 12 vtz batteries, a transmitter and a computer logger, the entire backpack was shrouded in two colorful garbage bags. As Pat and I returned the loggers to the field, we had to turn them back on, make sure we were on the right channel, make sure the receiver was recording and place the ground temperature probe in the ground. As we left the shed to do this, it bombed rain again. Soaked through and anxious about the delicate equipment, we set them up and each had to reopen them to check one thing we had forgotten. We left them beeping away with our fingers crossed.

We still had an hour before lunch, so Peggy suggested we track the 4 other goannas that had still not been located. I am totally drenched by this time and irritated that I did not buy rain pants when I had the chance. I was in the scrubland and was about 20 minutes from going in for lunch when I heard a short faint beep for the goanna, Mel, who is a girl by the way. I began to go in her general direction, but no matter what I did, the intensity of the beep did not increase, meaning she was still far away. At times, I lost the signal, but I would keep going in the general direction where I last heard the sound and I would pick it up again. Finally, it was lunchtime, so I took a GPS and a compass reading so that I could return after lunch and continue.

Pat saw me as I arrived back and took pictures of my soaked legs, my overall costume and my very dirty butt. Not sure when that happened. I changed into dry clothes for lunch and asked Peggy if a previous Earthwatcher had left any rain pants that I could borrow. YAAH they had!


Lunch ala Linzee was pasta and she also had bought special lemon or raspberry jam tarts. I took a slight nap and then I asked Peggy to come out with me to see if we could find Mel. Similar to the morning, Peggy and I would pick up and loose the signal and we finally had to go back to where I had ended and begin again. We found Slinky in her third burrow and marked it. Boy, does that goanna love real estate! To make a long story short, with lots of perseverance and double-checking ourselves, we finally found Mel. Afterwards Peggy said many kind things about my tracking ability. Another one off the list.

Annie and Doug came for dinner and Linzee made a wonderful chili. Any leftovers, I can use tomorrow, as I am chef for the day.

Sunday, July 2

Still raining and I slept very well. Just as well as I had to be first out of bed to get the breakfast laid out and the kettle on. I decided to make French toast and it was a big hit.

In addition to being chef for the day, the person in the kitchen also had to clean the bathrooms and shower room, sweep and mop the kitchen and living room floor and clean the roo poo off the veranda. When I arrived back at the kitchen to what I presumed would be a silent area, the entire team was still there doing computer work and getting ready to go into the field.

I had planned to do stuffed peppers for lunch, but there was so much chili left over, I made burrito casserole and my saltine cracker cookies for dessert. They did not harden as I had wanted, but were still well received. I know now that another thing I will take on my next trip around the world is a few of my simplest recipes.

Another thing that happens when you are chef of the day is that at lunch or dinner, you are asked to bring your photos or information from home to share with the group. I brought out my hard copy pictures of the family, cats and friends, as I had left my computer back at the YHA in Adelaide.

After they all left me for the afternoon, I sat in the living room next to Juniper in her box and peeled the pears and apples for fruit crumble for dinner. That was the only time I sat down all day.

My dinner was two types of baked chicken, one breaded and one with seasonings, rice, gingered and honeyed carrots and fruit crumble.

We were pooped so no evening entertainment tonight.

Linzee opted to move into a private tent in order to sleep more soundly.

As I look at the research center and the way that Peggy and Mike have created their life and home, I can say that they are true environmentalists, nothing is wasted, everything is recycled and as they put it, no one has ever gotten sick while on their project. They measure everything and are constantly collecting data and samples of things that they send off to other researchers who are doing similar or collateral work.

Let me tell you, your day in the kitchen is no cakewalk and I was anxious to get back into the field where it was quiet and a much easier pace!

Monday, July 3

We were up early and out as soon as possible because we had an appointment with Doug and Annie for homemade pumpkin scones at 10:30. We had sad news this am as Juniper had not made it through the night. Peggy said she would be doing a necropsy at 4:00 in the afternoon if we wanted to see it. Sorry little Juniper. Thanks for spending some time with us. You were the first echidna that some of the team saw.

My am tasks were to try and get a signal for the three echidnas and the rest of the goannas and also place a burrow temperature stick at Mel’s burrow. I was late getting back and we were a little late for scones. Peggy took the bush pruners with her and clipped the prickly acacia off the trail and the Achitriche (I call it ouchy triche as it has triangular leaves that are sharp).

The scones were soft orange and very tasty, but the middle ones were absolutely raw. Doug and Annie kept jumping up and running in to run them through the microwave. We sat at a hexagon shaped picnic table that could seat 12 which was wonderful. I found out that Doug had designed and built it.

As we had scones so later in the am, most of us did not want lunch that was lucky for our chef of the day, Ben. I took a hunk of cheese and an apple into the field and kept tracking. No signals from anybody, so I went over old territory near the waters edge and found ANOTHER ECHIDNA POO!

The necropsy was sad but also interesting and from the extent of her injuries, it was obvious she would not have healed. The dislocated legs had not stayed in position, she also had a broken or very loose lower spine, bleeding on the right side of the head, her chest was filled with blood and her kidneys were very enlarged. From the direction of the injuries, it was obvious the car went over her on a diagonal.

Shower night and computer time. Tea was a little delayed due to the necropsy and Ben made bangers and mash.

I was in bed by 9:00 and slept very well.

Tuesday, July 4

Pat was chef of the day today.

This morning, the team did a quadrant survey. My quadrant was the NE section of the area I had searched the previous afternoon, which was helpful to go back over previous territory. Yesterday I had come across the most enormous roo poo and was wondering if someone would find it again. We first went through and counted echidna nose pokes, spider holes, mole crickets, ant mounds, termite mounds and listened for bird and wild life noises. After that pass, the next half hour, we picked up as much poo as we could find which would later be counted and weighed. This included roo, wallaby, possum, cat and echidna if we could find it.

Lunch was homemade lentil soup. After lunch, Peggy showed us the slides of all of her goanna research.

During the afternoon, the rest of the group weighed all the collected poo and then we followed Mike out into the field to track the only echidna that was sending us a signal – Cushion, who is last years pouch young of Big Mamma. I was not at my balanced and most tolerant best this afternoon and was concerned that the group would talk and giggle the entire way to the site. I have found at times, their exuberance and unawareness of the how silence will make finding animals easier a little taxing at best. Mike had led us very well and we found Cushion totally submerged under leaves and twigs beneath an overhanging branch under a large tree. As Mike lifted Cushion out, Cushion instantly went into a ball. I got to hold the scale to weigh him and we took a group photo of what turned out to be the only echidna we saw during our two weeks. The rest of the group walked back to the kitchen, but Mike and I continued going through the ridge and valley in hopes of coming across other echidna sign. We were in an area that I had never been which included the swamp area. This area is considerably inland from the lagoon, and yet it floods annually leaving massive salt residue. There was one area that had tons of echidna sign and I hoped to come back to the area earlier in the day to see if I could spot the echidna.

I know that the entire team was beginning to feel pretty useless in finding echidnas. The only thing that made us feel better was that even the professionals had not found any either. Peggy kept insisting that echidna sighting is very much done on echidna time. You have to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and looking in exactly the right direction. You can walk right past them and they may be hiding on the other side of the bush.

Pat made a wonderful curry for dinner and marvelous lemon bars. Peggy had a surprise for us and we had wonderful sparklers to celebrate July 4th.

I was having difficulty sleeping, so I ended up taking a pill and finally had a good nights sleep.

Wednesday, July 5

Another quicky breaky and then out into the field. No sign or anybody and no echidna poo.

This afternoon there was an option of more sight seeing of the island. Everyone but Pat took advantage of the opportunity in hopes of seeing more Blue Penguins. We did see several nesting Blues, near a beach with schist rock that is on both sides of the waterway that separates KIsland from the mainland. As we were driving to Penneshaw, I stopped to take a picture of a golf course hole. Instead of short green grass, the green was covered with black charcoal, as the island as is most of Australia, under severe water restrictions due to several years of drought. There is a rake at the green so that golfers can make the surface flat when they putt.

John served us his famous lasagna and there was so much left over, we know we will see it again tomorrow.

This evening’s entertainment was a video on the platypus (the other monotreme) with little snippets comparing it with the echidna.

Thursday, July 6 – 6 MONTHS AWAY TODAY!

With this being our last half-day, both Pat and I were up early to ride with Peggy to the place we had been two days earlier. Nothing new for me on the echidna front, except for several locations of echidna sign that I photographed.

I got a picture of a tree that had done some chemical pruning and some locations where there had been lots of echidna sign. Mike explained chemical pruning to us as how the plant self regulates itself and basically kills the main trunk. As the trunk fall and lays on the ground, the main roots are still intact and they send shoots up on the downed trunk. One of the reasons why this happens is that the larger trees form umbrellas of shade that discouraged undergrowth, which the tree needs to add nutrients back to the soil. When the soil becomes too depleted, part of the tree is pruned so that the other species can come back and the tree remains to grow. Isn’t nature a wonderful system?

On my way back with no much luck in the echidna area, I then tried to go into goanna territories, which was along the ridge down the track that we had traveled so often. As I went around the corner, I saw a goanna sunning himself. (I assumed he was a him). His eyes were closed. I took a picture and then dropped my gear a little away from the site. As I went back with my bag ready to capture him, he opened his eyes, flicked his tongue twice (which meant he smelt me) and then he went into his hole. I stuffed the hole with my bag, turned on my pet, and began doing all my data collection. It was 11 am and I knew that the group would not look for signals until noon. The posse arrived a little after noon and they had hoped it was an echidna, but they were pleased to see the photo of (Scratchy as I called him). Mike and John were not able to retrieve him as he had planned his burrow very cleverly in the tangled roots of an achitriche (ouchy triche).

After lunch, the group was assigned to specific chores to help tidy the center before we leave tomorrow. My job was the exterior windows. YIPPY! I avoid windows at home. My stomach was not doing great, but after cleaning, I wanted to take one last walk to see if I could find that elusive echidna. No luck, but it was a nice final walk.

Dinner was going to be surf and turf, but the stomach was still not feeling well so I only had a baked potato. After dinner, the group had our talent night. Peggy started us off with funny songs, and the entire group singing Peggy’s original song Echidna Scat and Goanna Burrows, complete with choreography. Then Ryan told jokes, Pat read an original story based on the three little pigs, Ben sang two songs, Linzee was tongue tied for once, but as she mentioned, she had been entertaining us for two weeks. My talent was my COTU Foundation monologue and the reading of the poem ITHAKA from Kerry Beebe. John closed off the evening by displaying some original Aboriginal art and Mike offered us each a CD with all our photos and the research data from our two weeks.

The closing activity was Peggy giving us awards. We each received a certificate of Findagoannaology and Paraechidnaology. It also had a poem that was composed especially for each of us which Peggy called the opposite of Haiku, Low Poo. Mine was a stitch. The certificate will be on display once I get home. In addition to the certificate, we each received a lovely homemade echidna cookie from Coral and an echidna magnet.

I had bought a lovely silk scarf with an echidna on it and we presented it to Peggy from the group. It had been a fun evening but we were all pooped.

Friday, July 7

Ben and Pat were taking the ferry off the island so we were up at 7am to say goodbye. The rest of us would go with Peggy at 9:30 to the airport. Just before we left, Linzee helped me find my green fleece vest that I had left in the shower house. THANK YOU LINZEE.

As I mentioned earlier, we had flown Qantas to the island, but they discontinued service during our two weeks and had rebooked us on Regional or REX air. When we got to the counter, while they had us on the list, they expected payment from each of us. We had arrived in plenty of time, but by the time we had it sorted, it was time to board the plane.

It was nice to return to the YHA and I had lots of things to do before I left for Sydney the next day. I had wanted to do a little shopping, but was not able to find exactly want I wanted. I mailed my OZ package home. 8 KG which I sent surface which could take anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months.

I wanted to go to the new pirate movie and did some internetting before I left. I found that I had been contacted by ItoI regarding my placement in Sri Lanka. They felt that the political climate near the elephants was too dangerous and wanted to know if I wanted to work in the Tsunami relief area. I thought about it during the evening and got back to them and said that I would rather stay in OZ or add extra time in South Africa.

What have I learned from this placement?

1. I think I prefer working with animals where I am taking care of them vs. scrambling over rocks and mountains to find them.

2. I am finding my capacity to stay balanced within a group appears to be getting easier.

3. I finally feel that I am in my trip, vs. on the outside of it.

Additional Australian Vocabulary

The letter Z is pronounced ZED as in shed.

The letter H is pronounce Hay-che

Chook – Adult chickens.

Chickens- baby chicks

POME is the name they give to British people and it means Prisoner of Mother England.

Posted by ladyjanes 20:44 Archived in Australia

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