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Spotlight monitoring of ecosystems

Members of our Environmental team together with Ecologists from Wild Environmental, conducted nocturnal studies of birds and geckos at 55 sites, spanning a 15 kilometre radius around Mount Isa Mines, including Rifle Creek, Haslingden and May Downs Stations.

The birds and geckos fauna survey is carried out every two years and forms part of our Mount Isa Mines Environmental Impact Monitoring Program (EIMP), which also sees us conducting bi-annual flora and ant fauna surveys.

The aim of our EIMP is to assess and monitor the impacts of sulphur dioxide (S02) emissions from our central processing areas on the surrounding environment.

Mount Isa Mines Environmental Advisor, Andrew Koerber with Harrison Warne from Wild Environmental, carefully walk one of the survey sites by headlamp.
Wild Environmental consultant, Harrison Warne leaves no stone unturned in the search for geckos.

Due to their abundance in the region, birds, geckos and ants are useful bio-indicators of the quality of the ecosystems in and around Mount Isa Mines.

The nightly birds and geckos spotlight surveys were undertaken in October and November in shifts between dusk and after dawn, to collect baseline data about the different species and numbers present in the local area.

The critters are observed and identified, both visually and by their calls, but are not removed from their habitats.

Tree dtella (Gehyra Versicala), a common species in this region.
Robust Dtella (Gehyra robusta).

Senior Environmental Advisor, Sarah Jory says the survey required teams to be set up on targeted rosters, as the geckos are most fruitful through the night, while birds are best spotted in the early hours of the morning.

“This year our team encountered a diverse range of birds and geckos, many of which we have encountered during previous efforts, but some new also,” Sarah says.

“Some of the more interesting gecko sightings included the Eyre Basin Beaked Gecko, Phasmid Striped Gecko, ZigZag Velvet Gecko and Robust Dtella.”

Geckos and birds are spotted and identified in the field.
A Frilled Neck Lizard which was spotted during the first birds and geckos fauna survey in 2015.

“The birds are more challenging to photograph but our teams still enjoyed spotting and identifying them, with species such as the Cockatiel and Rufous whistler looking to be widespread.”

“Some of the more significant sightings included a White-winged Fairywren, Southern Boobook and Spotted Bowerbird.”

“We’ve been conducting various flora and fauna surveys since 2015. This year’s data will be reviewed and compared against previous baselines.”

A Little Button-Quail (Turnix velox) spotted during the 2017 survey.
An Australian Owlet-Nightjar (Aeogotheles cristatus) observed in 2017.

Senior Air Quality and Noise Advisor, Kelly Malone says the survey data is analysed and correlated against the extensive S02 data Mount Isa Mines collects.

“In addition to the real-time S02 monitoring within the Mount Isa community, we also have gauges outside of the community to measure passive S02 results on a monthly basis,” Kelly says.

“This information is used to track trends and average results over time to ensure we’re meeting our regulatory limits, and is used as reliable data to improve our performance.”

Eyre Basin Beaked Gecko (Rhynchoedura eyrenis).
ZigZag Velvet Gecko (Amalosia rhombifer).

Flora and fauna sampling occurs at different times of the year to coincide with optimal climatic conditions for each bio-indicator.

Fauna surveys, including ants, geckos and birds are conducted from October to November, and flora surveys in April and May after the wet season. Soil sampling is not time specific and can be collected at any time.

An ant survey and soil sampling have already been completed earlier this year, and the next flora assessment component of the ongoing EIMP Program will be completed in 2022.