This month I’ve been getting acquainted with the Malleefowl Project. In Victoria, malleefowl monitoring is primarily run by the Victorian Malleefowl Recovery Group – that is, a community-based group of volunteers. Mike Bode, José Lahoz-Monfort, a couple of keen friends and I travelled out to Wyperfeld National Park for their annual training weekend on October 13-14.
The size of the group, the scale of their operations and the strength of their enthusiasm is really quite something. Over the summer, these volunteers visit hundreds of malleefowl mounds across Victoria (with little more than a slim chance of seeing the birds themselves!) to observe nest activity.
The main challenge is that sites are isolated and prone to extreme weather conditions – monitoring often requires camping for the weekend and walking between mounds on very hot days. The VRMG are equipped with satellite phones and strict safety procedures to ensure no-one gets lost. I can barely imagine how difficult this work must have been in the years before the group could access hand-held GPS!
Once at a mound volunteers collect a substantial set of data, prompted through each step by a very nifty custom-designed cybertracker application. These allow for thorough validation back in the office to identify recent malleefowl breeding activity, as well as other potential visitors to malleefowl mounds that might threaten successful hatching.
It was great to have a first look at the mallee environment and get to know some of the people driving malleefowl conservation in Victoria. They’ve developed an impressive data set over many years, and our team will try to put it to new and valuable use.