This was my least favorite day on this expedition. It was rainy and misty and foggy and rainy intermittently this morning as we radio-tracked our animals. I was able to track the beeps at each requisite frequency, and had no trouble locating animals, but when it came time to confirm our sightings by looking for ear tags or numbers on radio collars, the usually lethargic koalas were downright comatose. Even banging on the tree trunks and, where possible, shaking branches didn’t stir them sufficiently to have them raise their heads or show their chests to discern whether they had the male center stripe of brown scent glands, or female creamy white breast. Furthermore, we are supposed to identify the sex of all the other koalas within 20 meters of our quarries. For the first time, I had to resign myself to filling in “unknown” for many of the animals. As I was feeling similarly lacking in energy, I couldn’t really blame these bedraggled looking critters for not wanting to play our little game of “who’s who.”
After lunch, several of us headed back out to the tall trees to do a koala survey – essentially counting every koala we could spot along a 500 meter transect. The trees were very tall (some 50 meters or more, and many that high and up hill), it was drizzling and raining and damp and chilly, I was tired, and after 90 minutes, we had seen no koalas. Then my eyes shifted and I realized there was a leech on my face. If I had been trying to jolly myself out of a bad mood, that finalized my failure. For the next half hour, I was picking leeches off my gaiters and generally feeling squirmy and cranky. I was not the only person elated to leave.
The weather cleared a tad as we drove to another site with blue gums (the tall site turned out to be a different species, but that’s a story of which I’ll spare you the re-telling) and as evidenced by the scat on the ground, more koalas. The trees weren’t as tall, so surveying this transect was both more rewarding and less painful. And we didn’t see a single leech.
Tonight was the night Frank (the campground owner, not the koala named after him) made individual home made pizzas in his brick pizza oven for a few of the groups camping here. In addition to us, there was a group of students from St. Olaf’s College in Minnesota who are in Australia for a 4-month biology semester abroad. Bimby Park, our home for two more days, is a fairly extensive establishment with camper vans, caravans (like VW Vanagons and their ilk – very popular with 20-somethings traveling the country), tent sites, cabins, horseback riding, a climbing wall, nature walks, trails, and Des’s koala study site. Most people fended for themselves for dinner. We all felt very special… and full. Des seems to have friends in all the right places.