The expedition is in full swing. We are checking live traps in the morning and rodent traps before the teams move on to their surveys. A Cheeseman’s gerbil was caught yesterday.
Playing dead, we didn’t see or hear it hidden in wood shavings and there was no movement when we studied the closed trap for signs of life. Only when emptying the trap, did the creature reveal itself, frozen at our feet for only a second before disappearing at the speed of light. During the night a fox must have desperately tried to get to it, burying a deep hole all around the gerbil’s safe enclosure. From the tracks that were left behind we could read the whole story!
Other than that the surveys are going well. After a couple of days everyone is now familiar with the GPS and the road network. But also with using shovels and tow ropes for a full desert experience! 😉
Apart from surveying ‘cells’ – areas of 2 x 2 km – from two different survey points, which the teams have to reach on foot walking up and down sand dunes, Steve, the expedition scientist, has added the task of counting oryx at feeding points.
A great number of calves and juveniles are seen and counted, and it will be of great importance to ascertain the actual number of oryx within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve for further management decisions.
We have also come across a dead oryx indicated by about 15 lappet-faced vultures circling the sky above. Walking the dunes we also check fox den holes marked in our GPSs to categorise them active/inactive/abundant/not found, or we note GPS positions of new fox dens – all in an effort to update the existing database.
When the teams return back to base in the late afternoon lots of data are brought back from the field. Thanks to Lea, who has become the team’s data entry specialist, all data sheets have been entered into the scientist’s computer.
Only two more days of rising with the sun in the morning and spending all day out in the field.
From our desert expedition volunteering with oryx and wildcats in Arabia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia).