News from the Field

Updates from Australia’s largest biodiversity survey program

11 Dec. 2020
© Joey Clarke/AWC

Science is the foundation of AWC conservation work around Australia. Our team of 60 dedicated ecologists carry out the country’s most comprehensive program of wildlife surveys.

Across each of our sanctuaries and partnership projects, AWC scientists compile an inventory of animals and plants, set thousands of live traps and motion-sensor cameras to detect elusive wildlife, search for threatened species and record patterns in diversity and abundance over time.

Despite limited capacity in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, AWC’s ecologists have managed to achieve an astounding year of surveys across the country.


Elusive Button-quail confirmed at Wongalara

A recent expedition to Wongalara Wildlife Sanctuary in the Top End of the Northern Territory resulted in a new species being added to the sanctuary’s list, the Chestnut-backed Button-quail.


090a4110 Web © Pat Webster/AWC
A recent targeted survey at Wongalara in the Top End confirmed the Chestnut-backed Button-quail there for the first time.


Wongalara sits south of the Arnhemland Plateau and supports healthy tracts of Darwin Woollybutt and Stringybark woodlands which provide an abundance of resources for seed-eating birds such as parrots, finches, doves and quail.

The AWC team was joined by button-quail expert and PhD student Pat Webster who was able to positively identify the Chestnut-backed Button-quail on-site for the first time, and also catch and band some of the birds. Prior to this, only one Chestnut-backed Button-quail has ever been captured.


Img 7688 Web © Eridani Mulder/AWC
Wongalara’s extensive savannah grasslands support six species of parrots, including the spectacular Hooded Parrot, which is restricted to the Top End.


Button-quail surveys coincided with the annual waterhole bird surveys at Wongalara, with staff and volunteers sighting Hooded Parrots, Gouldian, Long-tailed, Masked, Crimson and Double-barred Finches and a range of doves and honeyeaters at the last pools of water in late dry season.


Budgies arrive at Scotia following rain

In October, Wildlife Ecologist Tali Moyle and the team at our Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, western NSW, conducted the 2020 bird survey.


Budgies © Tali Moyle/AWC
Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary experienced an influx of birds in October, including flocks of Budgerigars.


The region experienced an influx of birds following good rainfall in the preceding months, with flocks of Budgerigars, Cockatiels, Pied Honeyeaters, Masked and White-browed Woodswallows and Scarlet-chested Parrots all arriving to make the most of the improved conditions.


Black-footed Rock-wallaby survey at Newhaven

Volunteers from Alice Springs led this year’s survey for Black-footed Rock-wallabies along the quartzite ranges at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in Central Australia.


Image D Black Footed Rock Wallaby Web © Wayne Lawler/AWC
Surveys for Black-footed Rock-wallaby were carried out by volunteers at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary this year.


The threatened species occurs in isolated subpopulations in the rocky ranges of inland Australia, from the Pilbara to the Central Ranges, South Australia and southern Western Australia.

Surveys were carried out in the cool of the mornings and scats of these little macropods were recorded at two of the three sites surveyed.


Search for the Pebble-mound Mouse at Mornington

As the temperature rises and storm clouds gather in the Kimberley’s build-up season, a team of ecologists set out on a targeted mission to find one of the region’s more elusive native rodents: the Central Pebble-mound Mouse.


Pebble Mound Mouse At Mornington © Isabel Connell/AWC
Field Ecologist Susie Stockwell surveying for the elusive Pebble-mound Mouse at Mornington.


These small nocturnal animals live in communal burrow systems, taking their name from the small mounds of pebbles that the mice construct around the burrow entrances.

During this survey, a total of 28 pebble mounds were found, 10 of which had not been recorded before. Camera traps have been deployed and will be retrieved in a few weeks’ time – we are eagerly awaiting the results.


Faure Island survey

Surrounded by the idyllic turquoise waters of Western Australia’s Shark Bay, Faure Island was established as an AWC sanctuary in 2002.


Faure Island Scenery Brad Leue 8 Web © Brad Leue/AWC
Faure Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Shark Bay, where ecologists carried out a wildlife survey recently.


After AWC reintroduced some of Australia’s rarest mammal species, the island now supports critical populations of the Shark Bay Bandicoot, Burrowing Bettong, Banded Hare-wallaby and Shark Bay Mouse.

Wildlife surveys on the desert island require the extra layer of logistics involved in transporting trapping equipment and supplies (including two kilograms of coffee) almost 20 km across the channel by boat.

On a recent Faure Island survey in October, the team, led by Chantelle Jackson, caught 17 species of remarkable reptiles, including the Long-beaked Blind Snake, Jan’s Banded Snake and Western Spiny-tailed Gecko.


This immense survey effort across the country is central to AWC’s science-based approach to conservation. Thank you for your support, which makes all of this work possible.

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Wayne Lawler/AWC
Wayne Lawler/AWC
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