Seeking the Secrets of Badja Station’s Malleefowl Population

This month, NACC NRM’s Biodiversity team headed out east to Badja Station to conduct the annual Malleefowl mound monitoring.

Every year, dedicated volunteers across Australia brave the dense shrublands and woodlands, inland heat, ticks and flies to conduct vital observations of Malleefowl populations.

This essential work begins in September when Malleefowl across the country begin laying their eggs into mounds which have been meticulously constructed and tended.

Monitoring Malleefowl populations is done by examining known mounds. Malleefowl are shy and elusive birds and counting the birds themselves would prove very challenging. However, their mounds are quite noticeable in the environment and are a more effective way of tracking the birds.

NACC NRM’s Malleefowl Project, Gnow or Never, funded the use of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imagery which is an effective way to search large areas and detect Malleefowl mounds within that space.

LiDAR is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. This information can then determine features in the landscape, exposing structures that are consistent with Malleefowl mounds. A number of these structures are then physically investigated from the ground to determine whether they are in fact active mounds – a process known as ground-truthing.

NACC NRM Bushcare Officer, Jarna Kendle says that while Malleefowl are known to reuse their mounds, they can often create new mounds making the LiDAR technology extremely useful.

“In two days, myself and NACC’s Programs & Operations Manager Kane, were able to locate 6 active mounds and to our excitement 2 of these were new mounds,” said Ms Kendle.

When a mound is located, extensive information is recorded. It is important to note whether the mound is active/inactive, the height, diameter, surrounding scats and tracks, as well as the mound’s GPS location. This data informs national records, ongoing management and on-ground works.

“Monitoring can be hard work – walking several kilometres a day in challenging terrain and climatic conditions – but when you spot a Malleefowl or come across an active mound, it makes all the hard work worth it,” said Ms Kendle.

This program is supported by NACC NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Jarna Kendle – Bushcare Officer

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