Volunteers are involved in the annual survey of approximately 1400 Malleefowl mounds located in over 40 sites throughout the mallee vegetation of north western Victoria. This includes the Mallee, the Wimmera and parts of Northern Victoria. The survey data is collated and analysed by Dr. Joe Benshemesh as part of a long term research project. See the survival page to find out more about the background and reasons for the research.
Sites are located as follows :
- 9 in Wyperfeld N.P. and environs.
- 11 in Murray-Sunset N.P. and environs.
- 8 in Hattah Kulkyne N.P. and environs.
- 3 in Little Desert N.P. and environs
- 4 in Wychitella NCR
The sites, are, typically, rectangles measuring approximately 2.0 km by 2.0 km and cover several hundred hectares. However, the sizes do vary considerably and they may take advantage of a particular geographical feature, such as an irrigation channel, rather than conform to the normal rectangular style.
The mounds within a grid have all been mapped. More recently, each mound has been located accurately with a GPS. A mound might be currently active, previously active, one used for practice or partially completed. The number of mounds within a site varies from about 15 to over 100. Birds tend to renovate old mounds rather than construct new ones. However, they do occasionally construct new mounds, and these are mapped as they are found.
Working the Sites
Prior to the advent of GPS devices it was necessary to locate each mound using marked grid lines, compasses and paced stepping. This could take quite some time, depending on whether the volunteer was working alone or in a pair, the volunteer's familiarity with the terrain and the density of the bush.
The advent of GPS trackers made short work (relatively) of finding the mounds. Together with Palm Computers linked to a GPS, the recording of data in the field became quite high-tech (despite relying on a program called Cyber Tracker that was originally developed in South Africa for use by non-literate Khoi-San people to track Kalahari desert wildlife.)
The technology has since evolved from Mobile Mappers to Android smartphones which combine the GPS tracker, camera and the Cyber Tracker app.
Recording the Data
Recording the data at a mound encompasses a number of distinct phases, as summarised below.
- 1. A visual examination of the mound before moving too close to it. This is particularly important for active mounds.
- 2. A photographic record of the mound.
- 3. A closer examination of the mound for signs of Malleefowl activity and for scats and tracks of native and feral animals.
- 4. Quantitification of different categories of flora.
- 5. Physical measurement of the mound.
- 6. Collection, for later analysis, of any Malleefowl or fox scat and Malleefowl feathers.
Considerable care is taken with the data collection as the integrity of the research is very much dependant upon consistent and repeatable techniques.