Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Fun in the bush!

DD with one of the many Bush Rats we caught. Rattus fuscipes. Photo: Ryan Pearson
By Ryan Pearson
Sounds rude right? Well, it wasn't really. You see, I've been out bush... yep, the bush, with all the spiders, ticks, lizards, snakes, marsupilami's, muddy death traps, and heat stroke that come along with it. And damn it was fun! I've been out helping my lovely lady DD with her PHD study into fire ecology. As part of it we were trapping to find out which species exist in certain areas that have been exposed to different fire regimes. This basically just means that they've been burnt at different intervals, some yearly, some never, and a couple of in betweeners.

I won't go into her study in detail as I don't want to take the impact out of her masterwork, but basically we used three kinds of traps that tend to catch small mammals, small reptiles, frogs, toads, and a bunch of insects. I came out of this week with a fresh respect for her work, and also a bit of disrespect for the whole system, and what I can only describe as a sad situation for our native species. Unfortunately, from what I saw, the most common species we actually caught were introduced - the cane toad was easily the most abundant thing out there (if you don't include insects and the like), and the house mouse was also quite a common sight. Sad.

One of the many frogs we caught in the pitfall traps. Mixophyes fasciolatus. Photo: Ryan Pearson
I'll spend the next few days/blogs going into further detail on some of these things, including the amazing diversity of our frogs, and small mammals... most of which it is near impossible to distinguish between. The tiny specific details that are required to ID some of these mammal species astounded me when they all look essentially identical. And yet when identifying the reptiles (mostly tiny skinks), the variability within a single species means that a lot of individuals from the same species often look quite different to each other. I'll admit that some of it has me baffled for now, but I intend to explore it all further and get to the bottom of it.

One of the more variable of the skink species. These guys can range from entirely brown, to bright orange with blue heads. Carlia pectoralis. Photo: Ryan Pearson
DD clipping some hair off a bush rat's behind so she knows if he turns up again. Photo: Ryan Pearson
For now, I'll just show ya'll some highlights, and if anyone out there has some spare time, I'd thoroughly suggest you get in touch with DD to offer your help as a volunteer... she's always looking for reliable people. She can be contacted via e-mail at

DD inspecting the grass one fine afternoon on the farm. Photo: Ryan Pearson

There's a track going back, to an old wooden...tree. The bush. Photo: Ryan Pearson

One of the two stick insects that decided to attach themselves to me while I was walking through the bush checking traps. Photo: Ryan Pearson
Volunteering can even get a little bit sexy. A rooster rides a hen on the farm we stayed at in Tiaro. Photo: Ryan Pearson

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