Day Two at BioBlitz


Photo: Dan Haley

The Tarkine continues to reveal its secrets as we carefully pry into its nooks, crannies, dunes, waters, skies, buttongrass plains and old growth forests.

I’m realizing the vast task ahead of scientists to gain a tiny fraction of the knowledge lost when the indigenous Tarkiner people were taken from this land. In a cradle of the dunes blown smooth by the westerlies an ancient midden holds remnants of their memories in the broken shells and bits of bones they tossed away during thousands of years of fresh seafood picnics on the beach. I notice that their gourmet diets included a lot of abalone.

Photo: Helen Cushing

Down by the shore amidst the sunbaking kelp a seal skeleton is not very old. Maggots infest the bits of meat left by the scavenging devils. The curving spine of the seal is the shape of the waves it used to know so well.

Photo: Helen Cushing

Meanwhile down on the rugged rocks where the waves wash and crash all day and all night, Radolfo and the rockpool mob went into raptures over red, pink and blue starfish. Plus they learned how to tell a carnivorous sea snail from a herbivore – turn them over and you’ll see that the meat eater’s interior is shaped like a gravy boat while the herby like a salad bowl – sea snails know.

Photo: Helen Cushing

We part the flowing seaweeds and lo and behold, a still life of shells, anemones and sea stars.

Photo: Helen Cushing

And just in case you thought barnacles were boring, let me inform you that they have the longest penis to body ratio of any species. Why is this so? Well, they are stuck to the rock and can’t chase her. So they must reach out as far as need be with their penetrating organ which is eight times their body length. As they are hermaphrodite any old barnacle that can be reached will do. And if the penis still can’t find another, they just fertilise themselves. Plenty of options in the permissive intertidal zone. To find out more try this fun article.

Photo: Helen Cushing

And that reminds me, Peter of the invertebrates told us about the velvet worm whose penis is on its head. Unlike the immobile barnacle, this opportunist is ready whenever he meets a lady head on. Sadly, we didn’t find one today.

Speaking of invertebrates, it was a blowy day so insects and birds were a little shy of our attentions. Nevertheless, I spied a shiny green endemic dung beetle crawling patiently across an equally green expanse. 

Photo: Helen Cushing

Jack jumper ants were busy as ants always seem to be (keep away, they have a nasty bite with a nasty poison that causes anaphylaxis).

Photo: Helen Cushing

The efforts of bush beaters and net wielders were rewarded with enough creepy crawlies to fill pockets full of specimen jars. Peter got excited over moths (he knows a lot about moths) and things that jumped tended to get away. Serena’s photo of a fly has been declared ‘rare’ (the fly that is).

Photo: Helen Cushing

Coastal meadows nibbled right down by browsing wallabies and other herbivores are smooth as a golf course and covered in scats. The mammal team are into scats. Wombat poos are sort of square, devil poos are full of animal remains and due to all the calcium turn white when they dry out.    

Photo: Helen Cushing

Late in the afternoon I found the mammalians huddled under the side of a dramatic sculptural dune contemplating a wombat burrow tunneled deep in. Another smaller hole right up high had the mammal guy scratching his chin. Not sure who lives in there and no-one wanted to put their hand in to find out.

Photo: Helen Cushing

Re mammals, when we’re not looking, the camera traps are. They’ve snapped shots of southern brown bandicoots, healthy Tassie devils, wallabies, pademelons, wombats, brush tail possums, a tiger snake (not a mammalian one) and good old Ratus ratus. Still waiting for the Thylacine. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Spider woman and her curious followers are happy with their day’s discoveries. The old growth forest yielded plenty of 8-leggers, yet to be indentified.

The orchid report was that the buttongrass needs burning. Not many orchids to be found there but Tasmania’s only endemic epiphytic orchid was looking beautiful in the forest. 

In the shady forest streams of the Tarkine, the wading aquatic gang found several of the world’s largest freshwater crayfish, Astacopsis gouldii. Growing up to 6kg in weight, the Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish is found only in northern Tasmania and is listed as endangered. The Tarkine is an important habitat so let’s help it thrive by saving the Tarkine from exploitation and development.

More tomorrow when I do some dawn birdwatching (or listening) and head to the plains.

Helen Cushing




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