Spotlighting (longish)

Subject: Spotlighting (longish)
From: Rohan Clarke <>
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 12:04:29 +1000
Hi all, 

Just cleared the message concerning tips for spotlighting equipment (oops),
so without the return address have posted it on birding -aus. Hope this is
of interest to others.

I use an old 60 watt sealed beam spotlight, either attached to the car
battery or running off a 1-2 kg 12 volt sealed wet cell battery. Provided
the car is running the light runs forever (well almost). With a sealed wet
cell I get 1.5 to 2 hours between recharges (about 50 to 60 re-charges in a
battery life). If traveling I simply hook up the small battery to the car's
battery via a home made lead (Make sure you get the poles right) in the day
and provided I cover a couple of hundred km this is enough to re-charge it.
If spotlighting from a car or charging batteries for long times run things
straight of the battery with a home made lead (with fuse) as built in
lighters tend to burn out after 50 plus hours of use. Alternatively I carry
a small Kmart car battery charger and use power points whereever they can be
found. The bigger and more powerful the light the shorter the battery life.
I've found my 60 watt adequate for everything from rainforest right through
to gibber plains. Most people use lights with globes but they blow quite
often c.f. sealed beams which in my experience never blow - but when you
take a fall and smash one they're hard to replace and more expensive. The
best place to get both a light and a small sealed wet cell battery is a
hunting or gun shop. Batteries are about 60 dollars, lights vary between 50
and 200 dollars. Camping stores have fewer in stock and they're usually much
more expensive. 
Try both spotlighting on foot and vehicle based spotlighting. When walking
your more likely to spot more wildlife over short distances because all your
other senses (mostly sound) are also detecting things. However your less
likely to see low density species. Spotlighting from a moving vehicle (5 to
10 km an hour) on quiet roads and tracks will increase your chances for some
of the owls (mostly Barn and Grass) and many of our mammals, particularly in
northern and inland Australia. Remember your looking for
eyeshine/movement/unusual silhouettes. Most nocturnal birds have deep orange
or red eyeshines.
Good spots in Kakadu for spotlighting are
*South Alligator Flood Plain- many owl species , bush thicknees and Dusky rats.
*Jim Jim camp ground and nature walk. Mammals are the highlight-Rock
Ringtail, Sort-eared Rock-wallaby, Northern Brown Bandicoot, Black-footed
Tree-rat, Red-cheeked Dunnart, Fawn Antechinus.
*Vehicle based spotlighting on any of the parks roads once the tourist
traffic's dropped off. 

Finally remember the animals welfare when spotlighting. When you do spot
wildlife move the centre of the beam to the side of the animal so it's in
half light or better still use a red filter (this is apparently outside of
the colour range for most nocturnal wildlife and thus has no effect on
them). As a bonus most animals are then much more likely to behave naturally
under these conditions.

Happy Spotting

Rohan Clarke

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