Entries by Noah Strycker

Camera Traps

Michelle and I spent this afternoon guiding a couple of visitors. Two guys are at Mornington this week with 30 remote, motion-activated cameras. The idea is to point the cameras at bird nests, leave them in place, then download the images later. If it works, we’ll get photos of predators at Fairy-Wren nests, and see […]

Rain in the Desert

Last night I woke, startled, at 1am, to an unfamiliar sound: raindrops drumming on a tin roof. Lightning and thunder rocked Mornington Station for a couple hours. Overall, we got 44.4 mL (1.75 inches) of rain overnight – the most precipitation in any 24-hour period in almost a year! March usually marks the end of […]

Pizza and Mozzie Bites

Forecasters are predicting thunderstorms the next couple days, which may foil plans to canoe Diamond Gorge tomorrow (more likely, though, we’d just go in the rain). For now, things remain sunny and hot. Last night everyone gathered around the outdoor pizza oven for a pizza party, Mornington-style. The raised, open-door oven bakes nicely when filled […]

Mist-netting Fairy-Wrens

Michelle, Sara and I got up at 4am this morning, packed mist-netting and banding gear into the truck, and drove a 4×4 road to a particular Purple-crowned Fairy-Wren territory in hopes of mist-netting the wrens there. Fairy-Wrens are cooperative breeders, so many territories have more than one male and/or female. Groups can be as large […]

Pandanus Trees

About 90% of Purple-crowned Fairy-Wren nests at Mornington Station are placed in one particular kind of tree, called Pandanus. It’s a spiky, palm-like plant that grows along the banks of permanent, deep pools along creeks and rivers. They look cool, but Pandanus fronds are lined with rows of sharp, serrated edges. My arms are scratched […]

Barking Owl After Dark

Barking Owls, so-named for their dog-like sounds, are the second-most-common owl around Mornington (next to Southern Boobooks, which look relatively similar). Last evening, I spotted one silhouetted against the starry sky while I was walking between buildings. The owl perched on an exposed snag long enough for me to run for a flashlight and camera. […]

Mornington Station

Mornington is a giant reserve in the Kimberley, an untracked wilderness in northwest Australia, just north of the Great Sandy Desert. The station is an old cattle ranch (they call them “stations” here), accessible by mail plane or a six-hour 4×4 drive from the nearest down, Derby. Now, Mornington is run and owned by the […]

Tramping in the Heat

It was about 106 degrees F today (41 C), but, when I complained about the heat, Olya (who studies Crimson Finches) expressed little sympathy: “It’s cool out there,” she said, with a smirk. “I had to put an extra blanket on last night!” Though I had to admit that I turned my fan down to […]

Gone Swimming

Most everyone takes Sundays off at Mornington, so today Sara and I went swimming with Di (in charge of the tourism program here) and Paul (the camp handyman). We piled into a truck with a canoe, paddles, and inflated tubes, and drove about 10 miles to a waterhole along the Fitzroy River. The pickup truck […]

First Fairy-Wrens

Michelle, the Fairy-Wren guru, spent the day getting Sara and me up to speed on our duties for the next few months. Basically, we will follow a population of Purple-Crowned Fairy-Wrens here at Mornington Station, trying to find every nest and monitor every individual bird. The Fairy-Wrens live along a section of Annie Creek, which […]

Driving to Nowhere

After a bit of errand-juggling this morning in Derby, four of us set off for the long drive to Mornington. From Derby, the Gibb River Road takes off like a dirt arrow through untracked bush; we followed this single-track route for three hours before turning on to Mornington Sanctuary’s “driveway.” This added another 90 kilometers […]

Last Day of Civilization

My alarm went off at 2:15 this morning in Perth. When I subsequently presented myself at the airline check-in counter, the attendant said, “Derby? You’ll be off to the mines, then?” I assured her that my business in Derby had more to do with wildlife than ore, and, after the captain quipped, “It’s way too […]

Dryandra Birds and Roos

Maris picked me up in Perth at five this morning to give us plenty of time to make the two-hour drive to Dryandra before the sun came up. We managed not to run over any emus or kangaroos en route, though I saw both by the side of the road (the emus are wild and […]

Americans in Perth

At 5:45 a.m. this morning, I found Maris Lauva waiting outside my Perth hostel, ready for a long day of birding around town. We spent most of the time with Marcia and Bob, from Maryland, who had the day ashore in Perth on a 2-week cruise to Thailand. Turned out Marcia had been on a […]

Summah Down Undah

After cutting every line in the Sydney Airport, watching Customs take all of my jerky away, teaching a woman from Venezuela to use her in-flight entertainment system (in return for half a blanket and a packet of M&Ms), and being taxied by a distinctly non-Australian man named Jarko, I am in Perth, in southwest Australia, […]

Bound for Australia

Day after tomorrow, I’ll board a plane here in Eugene, Oregon. Two days later, I’ll arrive in Australia (skipping over the international date line, of course) – right in the middle of summer. I will spend the next six months (’til August) working  at Mornington Station in the Kimberley, one of the greatest wilderness areas […]