The Baby Pademelon
Trip Start Sep 04, 2007
18Trip End Feb 08, 2008
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This has been an eventful week. Our normal schedule of awaking to either sit and trap or bower search for five and a half hours was thrown off during Dr. Borgia's visit by both the addition of another person to the already chaotic kitchen in the morning and the extra task he set us of undertaking bower ornamentation experiments. Since the doc's departure on Wednesday morning, we have settled into a new routine of arising early to tend to a new mini study of bowerbird stealing behavior. Each morning we leave the cabin at five and visit all of the five or six bowers on our routes. After the first day, when we deposited two blue labeled tiles at each site, we note the IDs of the tiles we find, and if they have been robbed, and have fewer tiles than two, we start them anew with one or two fresh tiles and see if they can protect them through the day
The present experiment has already produced some interesting findings, after only two days. This morning I found that the second bird on my route had already visited and robbed the first bird on Brendan's route, only minutes after he had replaced the two tiles stolen yesterday
Another event adding to the seeming lengthiness of this week (which still lacks two days for completion) was the arrival last night of Sheila, another of Linda's colleagues at the University of Maryland, who has been doing her doctoral studies on the relatedness of male bowerbirds with regards to their tendency to destroy a neighboring bower
I experienced one such encounter two nights ago, while I was finishing up laying down the tiles for the stealing experiment along my route. I had just seen a seven foot carpet python descending a tree and had stopped to take pictures of it as close as I dared. I was just thinking about that as I was nearing the pasture that would take me back to the road to the cabin when I heard a soft hissing ahead and saw something struggling on the barbed wire fence. As I drew nearer it became more panicked and I saw that it was a small, grayish marsupial, dangling from a barb by a flap of its skin that turned out to be its pouch.
I was horrified as it made a frantic series of rasping hisses and strained with all its might to tear free of the barbs ensnaring it
So, once I got the pouch loose, I decided I would take what I thought at the time was a possum back to camp to have a better look at the wound and to at the least clean it up a bit, which I could not do alone. So, fearing I myself would get hung up as well, I climbed the barbed wire fence while subduing the clawing, hissing thing in my shirt, and hiked it the mile or so back to camp. Brendan was the only one there, having recently returned from his route, and he helped me clean the torn pouch with rubbing alcohol. He told me he thought it wasn't a possum, since upon a closer look it didn't have a prehensile tail, but appeared to be, in fact, a baby pademelon - which is a reclusive hopping mammal, a bit smaller than a wallaby. By the time we got the pademelon cleaned up, she was really quite frightened, and since there was nothing more we could do for her, we let her go. She hopped off very quickly, and seemed to be unhampered, though obviously scared. There was some worry that she might still be somewhat dependent on her mother, which could be a problem since I had moved her so far away. There is a group of pademelons that frequent the wood just behind the cabin at night, so perhaps they'll let her join their clan. In any case, displaced or not, she is surely better now than she was when I found her. I'm just glad I happened upon her in time to let help her. I have seen wallabies routinely climb through the barbed wire near the blind at Midway and kangaroos leap right over other fences, but it is clear that there are some casulties as a result of the endless partitioning off of grazing fields. This little pademelon may not be able to reproduce. I don't know enough about marsupial anatomy to say for sure, but who knows? It was an unfortunate incident, though, but she was seen by Abe yesterday hopping around, seemingly unbothered by her close call. As always, life goes on. This has been quite a week.