Interview with Frank Bird, survey leader at the Tarkine BioBlitz 2016.
Frank and his survey participants recorded a Masked Owl in a threatened forest in the Tarkine.
The Advocate 20 Nov 2016 has an article by Patrick Fahy covering the 2016 Tarkine BioBlitz.
Citizens and scientists participating in the Tarkine BioBlitz documented a range of species while surveying the area at the weekend.
Hosted by the Bob Brown Foundation, the blitz, which was held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is seen as a chance for nature-lovers to mix with scientists and naturalists in the wilderness of the Tarkine.
Plant and bird surveys at the coast, scats in the forest...
On the enchanting walk into the flooded sinkhole, Lake Chisholm, it is almost too easy to become completely distracted by the beautiful old growth stands of Eucalyptus delegatensis and Eucalyptus regnans not to mention the stands of Myrtle, Sassafras and Celery Top Pine. As a result the tiny members of the plant community are often overlooked.
Thanks to the sharp eyes of one of our survey leaders, Greg Martin this little epiphytic orchid was spotted! We identified this to be Sarcochilus australis a member of the Orchidaceae family. Not only is it quite rare but it is also Tasmania's only epiphytic orchid! A pretty special find.
Orchid Hunting with Craig Broadfield
Craig’s reputation preceded him. Over lunch we were told of his enthusiasm for orchids. We gathered around the bearded man to be given the instruction “eyes on the ground people”. He explained that all but two orchids in Tasmania are terrestrial, with just one epiphyte and another that grows on rocks.
We took the track that would lead us the long way back to Temma (where our buses were parked). And we were to take it slowww. Three meters from our briefing site an orchid was spotted. A sun orchid, Craig declared, named after their tendency to open for pollination by insects on sunny days. Craig prised it open to identify it and a small purple orchid was revealed. Small spots could be seen deep down between its petals. The treasure hunt had begun.
We ambled along the track, some took the scrub beside to get a different perspective. While we walked Craig talked. He told us the fires of last summer had created perfect conditions for orchids, clearing the competition and releasing nutrients back into the soil. Craig spoke of the finds he had made throughout the Tarkine in recent times and promised to take the lucky few on his bus to visit them. When an orchid was spotted we would clustered around the tiny treasure to adore it, hear more about it and take photos. They were so hard to spot, blending into the leaf litter and sometimes growing within a tuft of grass. Luckily there were some sharp eyes and diligent types amongst the group.
Together we spotted more species of sun orchids, a relative of the famous lady fingers and lady fingers herself were found. A bearded orchid was found, its green petals sporting a maroon beard. I was quite taken by this little number and wondered if the bearded Craig felt some kind of affinity with it.
Towards the end of the walk we were starting to get our eyes in. “Another sun orchid!” you could hear people call. On the last little stretch a humble little white orchid was spotted. Craig looked quite excited. It was an endemic to the Tarkine he explained, never before recorded in this stretch of coast. I peered under the shrub and marvelled at this special little plant, so modest I would have completely missed this special species. So interesting to see the world through the eyes of a passionate scientist.
Our Friday night survey team was particularly focussed on the endangered Tasmanian masked owl. The standard masked owl survey technique is quite full on - 5 mins' amplified masked owl calls (aka horror movie scream/hiss); wait quietly in the darkness, listen; another 5 mins of calls. No luck, and we moved up the track to listen for frogs.
But then, among the croaks, we picked up a subtle, hard-to-identify hiss. Halfway through another round of the recording, some very distinctive scary owl calls and cackles came right back at us! Frank Bird, the team leader, managed to pick up a beautiful view of the bird for the team with his spotlight, and even - a special ornithologist’s skill - to take a photo of it with his phone through his binoculars.
Though we'd thought it was worth trying, the chances of detecting one had seemed low, since masked owls are considered to be less common in wet forests, and you may need several nights’ surveying to pick one up even if it’s living in the area. What with that, and the sheer beauty of the owl - we were all a little overwhelmed.
You can find out more about the owl and its conservation requirements at this link.
There are thought to be only 500 breeding pairs. To breed successfully, it needs really big hollows which only form in very old trees. Another reason not to destroy these forests, if one were needed!
Saturday 19 Nov 2016
Before the BioBlitz, our Foundation purchased four new hi tech motion sensing wildlife cameras to capture the locals going about their business after hours. They were positioned in various locations around the Tarkine during BioBlitz and on Saturday night we checked the footage.
Great to see some obliging wombats and devils shed their inhibitions and strut their stuff for the camera – although the devil probably strayed into ‘too much information’ territory.
Giant Freshwater Crayfish expert Todd Walsh joined Tarkine BioBlitz 2016 and and showed us a wonderful blue variety of these incredible creatures.
These critters should be a massive tourism drawcard for NW Tasmania but instead their habitat is threatened by siltation from logging of the forests surrounding their river homes.
Saturday 19 Nov 2016
Our forest field site was located in magnificent rainforest along the Frankland River. This forest is under threat from logging and our BioBlitz is playing an important role in helping to document the biodiversity of these forests.
Today our survey groups were studying birds, orchids, frogs, plants and canopy research in and around these beautiful forests.
Our BioBlitz field surveys fan out across the Tarkine each day, covering sites from the coast south from Temma, the Dempster Plains and threatened rainforests along the Frankland River.
Each field site is a launching point for a range of different surveys covering plants, orchids, frogs, mammals, invertebrates, birds, fish, ecology and fire.
BOOK IN TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR TARKINE BIOBLITZ
2016 Tarkine BioBlitz will be held from 17–20 November 2016
Tarkine BioBlitz will bring together volunteer scientists, experts, naturalists and members of the public for a weekend of discovery, biodiversity surveys and fun in a truly remarkable place. We will be cataloguing the biodiversity we discover, adding to the scientific knowledge of this region.
The Tarkine BioBlitz will be held over three days, surveys in the field will be held from Friday morning to Sunday lunch time. Arrival at base camp on Thursday is advised if you would like to join the Friday morning surveys. You can join the BioBlitz for all three days or just one day.
Base camp is at Riverbend Youth Camp, 358 Trowutta Rd, Scotchtown TAS. Just 6km south of Smithton. The base camp consists of a large complex all under one roof. There is a great kitchen and dining hall, an auditorium where the data entry from the surveys will occur and a presentation room where we will have speakers each night.
Accommodation at the base camp is dorms with shared bathroom and toilet facilities. There is also room for tents and campervans for camping.
Field sites in the Tarkine we will be visiting include a coast, forest and plains sites. We will travel each day in mini buses and car-pooling each day.
Costs of the weekend include, accommodation at $15-$20 per person per night, breakfast and lunch $7 per person per meal, and dinner $10 per person per night. The food is delicious and wholesome and the base camp is a fun place to stay.
Please make a booking to participate at this link:
Meet the organisers
Just putting a few faces to the names...
Food preparations for the Tarkine Bio Blitz are well under way and the menu is looking pretty amazing.
I have been overwhelmed with the support from the local community and am really happy that most of our food will be coming from local businesses.
A special thanks to Marie from Summer Kitchen, Anne from Ashbolt, Yves from Miellerie, Michelle from Harvest Feast, Patrick and Marie from Help Yourself Wholefoods, Henriette from Kindred Organics, and Dave and Felicity from Old School Farm, most of whom have been regular donors and suppliers for events over the last couple of years.
The menu for the Bio Blitz will be all vegan and we will be providing breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, as well as yummy snacks and desserts. I am especially excited about the beetroot chocolate brownies, bean salad with Ashbolt Elderflower Dressing, and Moroccan chickpea tagine with fruit and nut couscous and harissa paste.
Joining me in the kitchen for the event will be my Mum, Debbie Searle, as well as the amazing Sarah Van Est, both of whom are volunteering their time to be there and make sure everyone's bellies stay full and happy.
We look forward to meeting you all in the Tarkine!
Lisa Searle, on behalf of the kitchen team