Thursday, March 17, 2016

WildCount Project by NSW NPWS OEH

2016 March: Volunteer for NSW NPWS OEH WildCount project, Australia

NSW NPWS OEH WildCount project

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Environment Heritage, WildCount Project (quite mouthful !) is a fauna monitoring program using motion-sensitive digital cameras. The cameras are set up in 200 remote bush sites across 146 parks and reserves in eastern NSW. They are tied to tree trunks at about hip high, with a lure in front of each one ... see photos #15 and #18 for pictures of the lure. When an animal wanders close to the lure, the motion sensor triggers the camera to take photos of the animal.

Volunteers were recruited to assist field officers to install/retrieve the cameras in the remote bush sites. And so, I was in the NSW Central Coast for 4 days to help Tam, a NPWS field officer, with the retrieval of the cameras that were set up 2 weeks earlier.

We were given GPS coordinates of the cameras. Then it was like geo-caching, to go to locate each one.

The daily routine was for Tam to drive a NPWS supplied 4-wheel drive (photo #5). Then we bushbashed through the scrub by GPS ... usually I led. Once we were close to a camera, it was Tam who invariably spotted it first. I don't know why, but I was not good at picking out cameras in the bush   :-( 

For a few cameras, retrieving them was not easy. It took us ages to find them after we reached where they should be. Reasons:
    - Another person, not Tam, had set up the cameras 2 weeks ago. Had it been Tam, she would be able to recall which tree she had tied the camera to.
    - GPS coordinates were not 100% spot on.
    - In one case, the bush was dense that we couldn't see far.
And so we kept circling and bushbashing around to find these errant cameras. All due to Tam's dogged tenacity, in the end, we manage to find them all !  Ah, that was part of the fun, hide-and-seek for grown ups  :-)

Day 1 - Weather: Good

Early Morning: Picked by Tam at Woy Woy Railway Station at 8:00am.

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Awabakal Nature Reserve (between Redhead and Dudley).

It was a horror to pick up camera #4 (south-east corner camera), because we need to cross a swamp and thus our boots are completely wet and muddied. For the rest of the week, the boots never dried out  :-(

Tam now says the camera locations were picked by a computer program without regard to its accessibility by humans ... now she tells you while you are in the middle of the swamp !

Lunch: Merewether Surfhouse, Henderson Parade, Merewether, NSW

Night: Bella Villa Motor Inn, 19 Lake St, Forster, NSW 2428

1)  At Awabakal Nature Reserve ~~~
A tiny spider on Tam's hat. Seems to be a Phonognatha graeffei ??? ... see

2)  At Awabakal Nature Reserve ~~~
Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus)

3)  After retrieving all 4 cameras, we have lunch at Merewether Surfhouse at Merewether. Here is Tam, always smiling :-)

4)  There is an ocean bath (a large pool) by the sea near Merewether Surfhouse.  Below are the scenes from the pool:
- Upper pic: Towards north-east ... The red arrow points to Sheperds Hill, south of Newcastle and just north-east of Bar Rocks.
- Lower pic: Towards south ... The red bar is Awabakal Nature Reserve. We were there this morning to retrieve the cameras.

Day 2 - Weather: Good

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Wallamba Nature Reserve (near Nabiac).

Lunch: Neranie Campground, Myall Lakes National Park

Afternoon: Pick up 4 cameras in Myall Lakes National Park (near Seal Rocks).

It takes us ages to find camera #3 (south-east corner camera), for some unknown reason, we just keep miss noticing it even though I swear we pass the tree where the camera is tied, several times !

Night: Bella Villa Motor Inn, 19 Lake St, Forster, NSW 2428

5)  Picking up cameras in Wallamba Nature Reserve ~~~
This is our car, a NPWS 4-wheel drive. Tam is very adept in driving it ... She can drive up and down steep slippery mud tracks with ease. And I feel like in a roller-coaster ... exciting and fun !  It is ok if the car gets bogged down or rolls over as Tam carries a personal locator beacon. And besides, our position is monitored back in the OEH head office by a GPS tracker.

6)  A strange plant in Wallamba Nature Reserve. If you know its name, please let me know.

7)  Lunch is here at Neranie Campground in Myall Lakes National Park ... nice place for a picnic.
The white car is ours.

8)  While having lunch, two lace monitors, Varanus varius, come to check us out.  The below photos belong to one of them. But when I try to photograph it, it scampers away.

Day 3 - Weather: Drizzle patches all day, morning worse, afternoon slightly better

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Booti Booti National Park

It takes ages for us to find camera #2 (south-west corner camera), The scrub is too dense !

Lunch: In the car in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park (near Bulahdelah)

Afternoon: Pick up 4 cameras in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park

It takes us a long time to bushbash from camera #2 (NW corner) to camera #3 (SW corner) ... difficult terrain.

Night: Bulahdelah Motor Lodge, 67-71 Bulahdelah Way, Bulahdelah, NSW 2423

This is a bad day.  In addition to the drizzle, we are feasted by blood thirsty sucking leeches ... yuk !  But being able to photograph the beautiful Red Triangle Slug (the pic below) is good enough compensation   :-)

9)  Red Triangle Slug (Triboniophorus graeffii), found in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park

10)  On a tree in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park ~~~
Ken in the Comment Section said it is a fungus ... perhaps Fomitiporia robusta.
Hhmmm ... Has Fomitiporia robusta been moved to Phellinus robustus ?

Day 4, last day - Weather: Good

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Columbey State Conservation Area (east of Paterson)

Lunch: Takeaway on the way back to Woy Woy Railway Station

11)  Marsh Snake (Hemiaspis signata), also known as Black-bellied Swamp Snake, with the two distinctive white lines on its face ... found in Columbey State Conservation Area. It is not highly venomous, but they do bite and victims will suffer pain and localized swelling. (Thanks to Ken who identified the snake.)

12)  Motions sensor camera tied to a tree trunk in Columbey State Conservation Area

13)  Tam with the camera

Photos from NPWS OEH WildCount motion sensor camera

Some of the common NSW wild life caught by the camera ...

14)  Wedge-tailed Eagle ???

15)  Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
The thingie in the red oval is a lure to attract the animals. Inside the metal mesh ball, red arrow, is some kind of peanut butter paste mixed with flour.

16)  Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
They are tasting the lure.

17)  Australian Brush-turkey (Alectura lathami), also know as Bush Turkey

18)  White-winged Chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos)
The thingie in the red oval is a lure to attract the animals. Inside the metal mesh ball, red arrow, is some kind of peanut butter paste mixed with flour.

19)  Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

20)  Lace Monitor (Varanus varius)

21)  Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)

22)  Wallaby

23)  Lyre bird

A different kind of wild life !

24)  Here is a different kind of wild life captured by the motion sensor camera !

Recognition Certificate

25)  For my effort, I receive this recognition certificate  :-)   Thank you, NPWS !


Yup, it is worthwhile to volunteer in the WildCount Project at least once in your life !

Motel accommodation, the 3 meals and transport are all paid for. And you get to explore the part of the Australian bush where you normally wouldn't go to. In my case, even though I'm a keen bushwalker, this is the first time I have visited:
  - Awabakal Nature Reserve
  - Wallamba Nature Reserve
  - Myall Lakes National Park
  - Booti Booti National Park
  - Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park
  - Columbey State Conservation Area

So, if you volunteer, chances are you will be assigned to bush areas where you've never been before ... all paid for by NSW NPWS OEH !


  1. The burr is a fungus. The snake is a Marsh snake (Hemiaspis signata). An Eastern Brown would have reacted much more if you were that close, as well as not having the white lines.

    The trip looks like a lot of fun. I don’t like the thought of wandering through the swamps in Awabakal, they are full of Red Bellied Black snakes.

    1. Thanks Ken, I have updated the blog accordingly.
      I guess we were lucky ... didn't get bitten by a Red Bellied Black :-)

  2. Hi there, wondering if you could tell me the location of the emus in the above camera trap images? thanks


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