As we drove into the small Western-Queensland town of Bedourie on our way to the Simpson Desert at the start of November, we began to wonder if we would make it out to our study site at all. The cars on the main street were plastered with mud, and thick chunks of clay were sliding off the wheel wells onto the street. We’d encountered some rain on the drive already – some out around Nyngan and Bourke, and more as we crossed the Channel Country. It doesn’t take too much to make the dirt roads impassable out there, and it looked like there was some serious rain around. Continue reading
The fourth trip of 2015 began, as always, with a three day drive to Ethabuka Reserve. The drive, though familiar to those of us who make the journey regularly, never ceases to impress, as tall trees and green paddocks give way to the dry, brown outback. As well as our two DERG vehicles, we were accompanied by volunteers Jan and Irene in their own vehicle. The rest of the crew consisted of Chris, Aaron, Dave, PhD candidate Kyla, honours candidate Gab, and our volunteers Nancy, Steve, Claire and David. Continue reading
The trapping schedule for the trip was to survey the Main Camp Gidgee grids – five full grids of 36 traps on sand-hills, and a further eight grids of 18 traps located in associated gidgee patches. This is part of an on-going investigation to explore the use of gidgee patches as possible refuge sites, as well as the movements of individual animals between these areas. We also trapped our mallee setup. Continue reading
The April desert trip had two parts as a first vehicle left Sydney on 31 March and the other three vehicles departed on 8 April.
The first morning was spent opening grids for trapping and setting up Stephanie’s GUD (‘Giving Up Density’) experiment. The latter experiment aims to look at the interaction of predation risk with food choice by offering a variety of seeds of varying palatability in different predation contexts (trays in the open and near cover, and across multiple seasons). Peanuts are offered initially, to get the rodents accustomed to the food supply. Stephanie anticipated many peanut takes by the rodents given that food availability is likely to be low during the current dry period in the desert. Continue reading
With a couple of good rainfall events in western Queensland over December and January, we headed out to the desert in mid-February with high hopes for the trip. Evidence of the rain was everywhere – some of the roads on our route had only opened up about a week before we departed, and some roads in the region were still closed due to flooding. The Cooper Creek at Windorah was flowing. We encountered grasshopper swarms here and there, and Australian Pratincoles dotted the roadsides in large numbers. We even saw a couple of frogs. But had our study sites received any rain? Continue reading
As we got out of the air-conditioned vehicles for a break on the drive through the channel country, we exchanged nervous glances as we felt just how incredibly hot the wind blowing into our faces felt. To either the first time volunteers or seasoned desert veterans, the heat was a shock. A record-breaking heat wave was punishing western Queensland at the time, with 11 straight days above 40°. What sort of trip had we committed ourselves to? Continue reading
As winter 2013 approaches, another team of Desert Ecology Research Group (DERG) staff and volunteers has returned from the Simpson to wash the red dust, diesel and olive oil stains from their clothing and pluck stubborn spinifex spines from their skin. It was a bumper trip, both in terms of the number of vehicles and attendees present and the work completed, though it’s definitely a ‘bust’ season out there.
Five vehicles (four DERG Hiluxes and Tom’s Landcruiser ute) carrying 22 passengers made their way through the gate onto Ethabuka on the 5th April, after an uneventful drive from Sydney. The amount of gear was considerable, including several large rolls of wire netting, wire and star pickets of various lengths, on top of the usual equipment. Continue reading
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On the local radio in western Queensland of late, tales of farmers doing it tough in the ‘drought’ are a familiar refrain. Rainfall in the region has been patchy at best, with some areas experiencing relief in the form of rain, while others endure the dry. Conditions around our study area in the Simpson Desert reflect this same scenario. On most of Ethabuka, where our Main Camp is located, little rain has fallen. Other parts of the study area have fared better this year, resulting in much more favourable conditions for flora and fauna. Continue reading
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Winter trips to the Simpson Desert are generally pretty pleasant. The clear, cold nights are perfect for star-gazing or sitting around the camp fire with a mug of mulled wine or hot milo, and the days are a good temperature for working. On this trip, work setting up the infrastructure of a new experimental project was in full swing, so on top of trapping and helping out with Steph’s PhD project we had a busy time. Continue reading
Driving through western Queensland on the way to the Simpson, it was clear that the late summer rain we’d experienced on the February trip had been patchy throughout the region, with some areas looking green and lush, and others still firmly in the grip of the dry period. One surprise was learning of the flow in the Mulligan River on Ethabuka, apparently occurring only a matter of days after we departed the property. This timing was a stroke of luck, as with both the Mulligan and the Georgina rivers flowing, we wouldn’t have been able to get out of the desert for some time. Learning from the crew of trip 1 about Pulchera waterhole being full, we resolved to visit this beautiful spot. Continue reading