Wednesday, December 31, 2008

They grow 'em big here!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone is well back home. I'm continuing to get to know the general area and getting acquainted with all forms of wildlife...I've been lucky enough to view such amazing things as sugar gliders (they look like squirrels, but are actually marsupials…do a google search to check them out). Their incredible feat is leaping from one tree to another right around dusk, and they glide on this web of skin between their front and back legs. (Not unlike the guys that do BASE jumping...must have been fashioned after these gliders.)

I saw five kangaroos hanging around in the shade, but of course did not have my camera on me, sorry. There are kookaburras right here by Jen’s place, along with more ibis than you can imagine, down by the beach. They are about the size of Canada geese, are a native animal and very common. I’ll snap a pic soon. The white pelicans hang out on the light posts everywhere and of course there are egrets and herons.

But so far the biggest, baddest thing I’ve seen is the golden silk orb-weaver spider, are also commonly called giant wood spiders or banana spiders, in the backyard here, see attached picture. They are not kidding about “giant.” The body is about the size of my thumb, and the legs are almost as long! The funniest part is the male of the species—look closely at the pic, and see the teeny spider above the giant one…that is her mate! You can guess who is the boss here!

Monday, December 29, 2008

More bat action

The two house bats continue to be entertaining and amazing! (Their names are Boris, he's the grey headed, and Baldrick, he's the black one in the previous post photo, hanging out.) We've been to the local colony in nearby Deagon to see the adults "swarm" off in the evening, when they head out for their evening fruit forage. We saw several thousand flying over town. (This is considered a small colony, as they splintered off from a larger group in Brisbane when they added on to the port area and cut into their habitat.)

The movie was from their first outside session. Boris seemed to enjoy himself while Baldrick held onto his tea towel and didn't seem to like being outside too much. (New sounds and smells, etc.) They are brought out for about ten minutes a day to get used to the great outdoors where they will eventually be released, once they learn to fly. You'll see Boris getting a good stretch of his wings.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bats in baskets

I arrived in Australia after a stopover in Fiji, and was picked up by my hosts, Jennifer and Chris Singfield. On the way from the airport, we took a drive through the wetlands area and the local town. It is a beautiful area, right on Moreton Bay. After our tour, we headed to their place where I noticed some bird perches, but no birds. I asked if they had birds and they sort of chuckled…welllll, not really birds, they said. Turns out that in addition to all the work Jen does for Bramble Bay, she also raises baby bats that have lost their mothers. This involves hand feeding and caring for these little guys. Bats, in fact, are a large part of the ecosystems here, due to the fact that they aid in pollination, and in spreading the seeds of the fruit they eat. And by the way, they are the cutest things you have ever seen, and I could watch them for hours.

So for now I’m getting situated before starting work in earnest on Jan. 5. We are heading inland for a couple of days, with the bats, of course. They travel well in their baskets.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Packing and Preparing

I work for an incredible company. I am participating in Patagonia’s environmental internship program, (you can see more about this at, where the company pays my salary for up to two months while I volunteer for an environmental group of my choice. This is an incredible benefit that I have been thinking about doing for years, but never applied for. (Unless, of course, you count my trip to Valle Chacabuco in 2005, but that is a different story!)

I encountered a group in Brisbane, Australia, that is focused on local wetlands restoration and agreed to take me on as an enthusiastic volunteer for two months. My contact, Jennifer Singfield, president of Bramble Bay Wetlandskeeper, was super helpful by providing all the paperwork I needed to complete my application. I found out my internship had gotten accepted last summer, but had to schedule my travel in January and February of 2009, in order to least impact my work at Patagonia. Several of my co-workers have been kind enough to keep my projects on track while I’m away, and I am indebted to them.

My work will include helping Bramble Bay Wetlandskeeper prepare for their World Wetlands Day event on Feb. 2; seagrass and salt marsh monitoring; non-native plant eradication (can you say "pulling weeds?"), assisting in grant writing; and general research. So it seems like it will be a combo of office work and fieldwork. I’ll definitely learn more as I go!

My plane leaves in 24 hours! More to come from the Southern Hemisphere.