Last week at Gnaraloo has been very crazy, awesome and exciting with three important arrivals. Firstly, Karen Hattingh, Project Manager of the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program, returned as part of a month long stay. Secondly, Mike Butcher from Animal Pest Management Services (APMS) who gave us the feral animal track training earlier in the season also arrived with his wife, Terri. Finally, we were very fortunate to be visited by the Chief Scientist of Western Australia, Lyn Beazley and the Senior Project Officer, Penny Atkins. They arrived on the evening on 15 December as part of a whirlwind two day tour of Gnaraloo and the turtle program.
We welcomed them with a candlelit BBQ in the old homestead which had recently been decorated for Christmas and is now exceptionally sparkly.
On the morning of 16 December, Lyn and Penny came with Einat, Ash, and I on our Day Survey. For the first time ever, there was a turtle track at BP7 just as you got out of the car. This was followed by a record breaking 13 more tracks including a rare green turtle track. We also caught a glimpse of a feral cat which was both good and bad. Lyn and Penny were interested in all aspects of the beach from the inquisitive crabs to the turtle tracks looping around the dunes. They also regaled us with many great stories and gave us many new ideas to consider regarding our research and future studies.
After returning to the homestead for a short break, the whole turtle team then gave Lyn, Penny, Mike, Terri, and Colleen a presentation about our work at Gnaraloo. Although we were all a bit nervous about talking to such highly qualified professionals, it all went smoothly.
For dinner we had pad Thai and green curry cooked by Casey, and then headed back out to the beach for a Night Survey accompanied by Lyn and Penny, as well as Mike and Terri. Once again luck was on our side and we saw a turtle almost immediately upon walking onto the beach. Everyone got a great view of a nesting loggerhead without any of the usual walking and waiting. On the way home for once it was not the GTCP project vehicle that broke down, but Mike’s hire car whose keyless ignition decided to play up. Yet after a brief read of the manual and some trial and error we all got back safely.
On Tuesday we had a presentation by Mike about his work with the Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program and how the turtle team was cooperating with APMS to allow strategic baiting using real time data which has been an amazing success. Over the past three years no turtle nests at Gnaraloo Bay Rookery have been predated by feral animals. We are very fortunate to have Mike and the whole team at APMS working with us (and sharing stories and lots of food!). Lyn and Penny then went out with Mike and Karen to discover more about Mike’s work while the rest of us finally got a chance to relax and unwind. When they returned we had a brief chance to say goodbye before they left to catch their plane back to Perth.
Thank you Lyn and Penny, for your time as well as endless encouraging words. Also thanks to all of the Gnaraloo team, Homestead staff, APMS crew and the turtles, for making this visit possible. It was definitely a memorable experience for all of us.