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One Step Closer to Fieldwork!

As with all of the photos in these blog posts, be sure to hover over them to read a little more about them (what the species is, where the location is, etc..). And hurrah for me for, so far, keeping to my promise about more regular blog posts!

Another week down and I’m finally starting to get settled into life here. I got a place to live out at the university I’ll be working at for the next 5 months which has advantages and disadvantages. For one, it’s an hour and a half by train away from Sydney. Being close to Sydney is nice because anything/everything I need is pretty easily accessible. Ultimately, being an hour and a half away is not that big of a deal but it is frustrating if I want to do something in Sydney because it means at least 3 hours (if not longer) on a train. All of that said, however, I am pretty pleased with the location I’m at now. The easiest way to describe the campus is that it was an old showgrounds (like, for horses). There is ag all around the campus and the buildings on campus are not tightly clusters, but spaced apart. There are trees interspersed throughout with well-manicured lawns. Despite this, there is still plenty of wildlife here. The first day I was here, I saw three species of parrots (Galahs, Long-Billed Corellas, and Rainbow Lorikeets) in a tree right outside my window. As a side note, the Long-Billed Corellas, when there’s 50 of them, act as a very effective alarm clock at 6:00am, but they have no snooze button. When I was being given a tour of the grounds, I saw an Eastern Brown Snake (highly venomous species) crawl into the wall

of a house. I saw a White’s Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) on a tree right next to my house last night. So there seems to be no lack of wildlife to observe while I am out here. It will be a little frustrating not having a vehicle to get out (despite, for example, being right next to the Blue Mountains it’ll take ~2.5 hours to get to them by train whereas by car, it would maybe be an hour). But with any luck, I’ll be out and about enough that that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

It has been raining a decent amount the last few days, which will be great for when I want to get out into the field to find frogs. If it keeps up like this, I should have good luck finding frogs. I will say one thing about the weather that I don’t understand. It comes from the west. For those with any semblance of knowledge of Australia know that west of Sydney is a pretty massive desert that is pretty dry. So I have no idea where all of the moisture is coming from to fuel these storm systems.

Despite the rain, we’ve had enough nice weather that I’ve been able to get out some and explore. On Saturday, I went to North Head, which is the northern peninsula to the Sydney Harbour. It’s part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. It was a nice day to hike around and see another part of Sydney. Being a partially cloudy, sort of cool (~75F) day, it wasn’t the best for finding reptiles or amphibians, but we did find some. The Eastern Water Dragons were quite plentiful with my seeing both adults and juveniles throughout the part. In these parts, the dragons seem to be one of the most common species. There were also numerous leaf litter skinks (which I should make an effort of trying to discern and ID, but they’re all pretty much tiny and brown, so it’s not easy). While on the hike, we saw a couple Cunningham’s Skinks (Egernia cunninghami), which are cool for a couple reasons. First off, they live communally or in family groups. Second, they’re a big skink (8-9”), for me anyway. For Australia, they’re a medium sized skink. And they’re rather pretty. We managed to get a female out of a hiding place, when we did so next to a family which included a 5 or

6-year-old boy who got very enthusiastic about us finding this skink. We let him hold the skink which was surprisingly placid. I thought for certain that I’d be able to pose the skink for some photos before releasing it. Unfortunately, the skink was just cunning (see what I did there?) and waited until the best moment where I was most distracted to bolt. As a result, I didn’t really get the photo I wanted of the animal. But hopefully I’ll find more of them and have better opportunities!

This coming Monday, I meet with my host advisor to go over my plan here. I might start sampling rather soon, but I think my efforts may be better spent waiting a little bit before I start sampling. I’d like the rains to definitely come more in earnest so that I can be guaranteed to find frogs. I’m going to be going to Tasmania in February, and I think after the conference there, it’d probably be prime time to start sampling and getting what I need done. In the meantime, I’ll be able to prep and write permits for all of the sampling. I should, at that point, be able to get a more definitive schedule for my fieldwork.

It’s slowly coming along, but I’m almost there for diving into fieldwork here!


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