Christmas and New Year

For Christmas, the penguins gave me a nice gift : a few days without field work to do in order to rest and party ! Because I actually found out at the last minute, Pip and I could not make any plans nor bookings and ended up missing out on going to Tassie for a festival as we wanted. Finally, we decided to go on a bit of a road trip to Adelaide, to spend a few days at some of Pip’s friends.  

 We drove over there on the 24th, which took us a bit less than 10 hours and we arrived for dinner. I was surprised to see that Aussies actually throw their Chirstmas parties on the 25th rather than on Christmas’ Eve, as most people do in France. We spent that day at a friend of Pip’s, playing in the refreshing swimming pool with the kids, and enjoying great food and drinks. It was way hotter in South Australia than it had been in Victoria and that, for me, did not contribute to being in a Christmas mood – this actually was my first Christmas in hot weather… We also spent time at another friend’s whose parents have a very lovely house on top of the famous Adelaide Hills, with an amazing swimming pool overlooking the city. On Boxing Day, we got pretty much baked on the beach – the water temperature was nice though, although colder than I expected. We also had a wine tasting down in MacLaren Vale. That allowed me to discover an original specialty – that was made thanks to a Frenchie actually : a sparkling red wine, which I found pretty good ! All in all, Pip and I were a bit tired and did not do a lot of walks and visits since we wanted to rest instead of running everywhere. We drove along a different road to go back to Melbourne. We followed the coast and reached the Great Ocean Road, where I had to check my study colony, in London Bridge, to know if the eggs from the second clutch had hatched and if there were deployments to do. A volunteer came with me to do the survey for a few hours but the eggs actually had not hatched and I came back to Melbourne and joined Pip who had gone to Melbourne early to see a cricket match.

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A corner of paradise

Here is an article to tell you about another place I discovered recently: a corner of paradise called Gabo Island. It is located on the East coast of Victoria, close to the border with New South Wales. The access is by boat – a 15/20-minute ride from Mallacoota. The ride to access this city took us about 6 hours and was a lot of fun! Indeed, I got to see new animals, especially my first kookaburras. But the most interesting part was the encounter with a wild echidna – mammal difficult to observe as I already mentioned in my previous article - and its rescue. Melanie, being a Wildlife Victoria volunteer, we stopped to remove the animal from the road after which we realized that it had been injured, probably hit by a car – road kills in Aussie are a big problem and important threat for local species, hence the presence of such networks. She called their office to know if a volunteer could come get the animal so it could get appropriate care but no one was available so we had to bring our new friend to a shelter in Mallacoota – not that I think it considered itself as our friend and that it seemed  to understand we were here to help, judging by the time it took us to pick it off the side of the road because it had dug into the soil to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. It took us our 4 arms and fifteen minutes to manage to have it let go to put it in a bag Melanie kept on her lap the whole trip to Mallacoota. We are not about to forget the trip! Just before getting on the boat, I also saw kangaroos, a first for me! On the way, I also got to see my first wombat and lyrebird! How exciting!

Arriving on the island, a few species of cormorans – and especially the black-faced cormorant, which is another key species of my PhD –, a few Australian pelicans, darters and white-bellied sea eagles welcomed us. Geoff, one of the two lighthouse keepers on duty that month, came to get us. We loaded our gear in his car and he gave us a ride to the house in which we were about to stay – how luxuous, by the way, compared to the cabins of Kerguelen or tents, or even the backpackers’ I’ll have to stay in during my fieldwork in other places! It’s a big house with 3 bedrooms, a large living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom; the only thing missing was the hot water but hopefully, that should be fixed soon! After dropping off our stuff, Geoff invited us to visit the lighthouse, from the top of which we got lucky enough to see humpback whales, along with Australian fur seals, and different species of seabirds – especially my first sooty oystercatchers, endemic to Australia! – under the beautiful sunset light! We went for a short walk after dinner to observe the little penguins coming back from sea in the evening and listen to them sing under a beautiful sky, in which we got to spot a few shooting star – nice, isn’t it??!!


Echidna on the way to Mallacoota


Gabo Island at sunset from the top of the lighthouse (photo: Melanie Wells)

P-S: due to my own camera failure, I couldn't take my own photos most of the time so here are Melanies'

To read more about the fieldtrip to Gabo Island et see photos, log in to your member account (restricted access)!

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