Archive for October, 2012

Christina Zdenek, Fulbright, Australia

After completing my 3-yr-long master and getting it accepted by The Australian National University, I took 4 months to top up my funds and climb some trees. I was an installation manager for Mobile Illumination, Inc., wrapping big trees with Christmas lights for, basically, the rich and famous of LA. After my funds were topped back up again, I was free to go back to Australia and explore the wildlife there again, this time with a big-lens camera   :).

The context of the trip was to join up with my old supervisor to do a reccy (reconnaissance mission) for the next round of Palm Cockatoo research. This time, as opposed to my masters time, I’m always photographing and videoing birds, mainly Palm Cockatoos, and, when the weather is good, heaps of other birds, too. It’s so fun. I can get some pretty ripper shots and footage with this pro-camera gear I’m getting around with. See below for some of my best recent photos.

In terms of the project reccy, I’ve been on a serious roll: I’m up to 16 hollows that I’ve found, as in 16 trees that have cavities in them that I’ve seen Palm Cockatoos (PCs) sitting on (they may end up being nests or just display hollows). That’s about how many hollows I found in 6 months of fieldwork 2 years back, and this round has only been 1 month. I’ve seen only one PC drum so far, which is a bit of a drag that it’s only one b/c that’s the main footage I’m after (for the project and for my video journal I want to make about PCs). I have seen them nest-building on two hollows, though. Yippee  :). So those may turn into nests (they maintain multiple nests, just to make it more difficult on us researchers).

I’ve also gotten into this habit of finding Green Pythons in the rainforest and sharing it with camping tourists – great way to make instant friends! I gave a PC talk to 10 trash-picker-upper volunteers the other night before a nighttime spotlighting session in the rainforest. They knew they wouldn’t have any luck finding anything without some expert help :). Sure enough, the green python I found for them was way off the side of the road in the scrub and everyone else had missed it. Needless to say, they were much appreciative of my time and help.

I’ve made lots of local friends with good hook-ups, too. Like this one old fellow who has a shack and 2-acre property by one of my fieldsites. He has welcomed me to camp there on his property, which is higher than all the surrounding land and overlooks the ocean. There’s even several 70-year-old war bunkers there, too, from WWII, when the Americans had a base up here in Northeast far north Queensland.

I’m also soon heading out with this old croc-hunter bloke (he used to sell croc skins, I think) to this remote creek where he has seen heaps of PCs, including drumming behaviour. It’ll be great to hear all his bush stories of this wild place.

Permission from local aboriginal land-owners for the project is going pretty well. They’ve all been positively responsive to letting me trek around and do this reccy, plus research down the track. Some are particularly keen b/c having me there researching PCs will help them have a stronger case for acquiring gov’t funds (perhaps for rangers) for conservation on their Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA). It is hard to get onto (find) these folks sometimes though.

One bit of bad news is that Rob, my old supervisor, can’t make it up here after all. We were going to do this big exchange of information and I was going to introduce him to all these key people up here, but his vehicle died on the big drive up here (3,600km/2,237mi) and he has run out of time. He’s keen to have me back next year, and he’s working on getting funding to pay me wages, too. Check that out. Haha. It’s a good gig, coming out here and getting to play out bush. It only feels like work every now and again, like when PCs are being slack and not doing much or never letting you get close to them.

Lastly, after this stint, which ends in 20 days or so, I head down south to the Daintree Rainforest (oldest RF in the world) for 18 days to help my good mate do her research for the AUS government’s study tank (called CSIRO). After that, I go to Darwin (Northern Territory) to present my PC research at a big conservation conference. I’ll likely fly back to LA come end-Sept. and hop straight into MI again (that Christmas-lighting business) to top up the funds so I can be free and do fun wildlife things again next year!




**All photos © Christina Zdenek. See for more photos and stories.