Saturday 19 Nov 2016
Slice of Camp Life at the Tarkine BioBlitz
Arriving back at camp after a day in the field has a festive atmosphere. Walking through the camp everyone is swapping stories and looking just a little sunburnt after the day out. “What did you see today?” everyone is asking each other. Clare Hawkins, looking chuffed, proudly shows me photos of the Giant Freshwater Lobster they had caught that day. “So blue!” she says, muttering “such a great day” as she scrolls through the pictures. I move on to have a shower and little sit down before dinner.
Meanwhile in the data room the work has just begun. With the data management team working alongside scientists to identify and document the day’s finds. There are trays of leaves, laptops, microscopes, vials and very serious faces in there. A screen shows a slideshow of orchids found that day. Rumours emerge from the room that a species of wolf spider new to science has just been identified.
The dinner bell rings and the dining hall erupts. A tiny kitchen crew has been working all day to churn out enough food to feed over 100 people. There’s dumplings, soup, very garlicy garlic bread. We’re onto the amazing strawberry kissel dessert when Scott Jordan walks in and bellows above the chatter “anyone wanna see a wombat?” As promised his wife had arrived with a posse; the wombat, some wallabies and a ringtail possum.
Some rush off to see the wombat while others start gearing up to head out for an evening of spotlighting. They are hoping to see an owl. There’s a feeling of anticipation as the crew boards the bus, head-torches around necks. The camp starts to wind down for the night, a few wander off to bed while the rest settle in for the evening talks. Fire ecology, orchids, soil. An amateur field naturalist’s dream. Time to sleep in my tent by the creek and do it all again tomorrow!
One of the plant surveys today found a beautiful and unusual white variant on the normal Patersonia fragilis, which is normally purple.
Who knows what other rare beauties are just waiting to be discovered in takayna /Tarkine.
Breakfast is a busy time with 140 eager BioBlitzers fueling up for a day in the field. The food is a highlight at BioBlitz with delicious, nutritious vegan meals prepared by an incredible kitchen team led by Lisa Searle. BioBlitz wouldn’t be possible without this massive catering effort.
Thanks Lisa and your wonderful team!
Every day, on top of providing lunch and dinner in the dining room, Lisa’s team prepares packed lunches for all the field trip participants so they can keep sciencing all day long.
Day one of the Tarkine Bio-Blitz and what an amazing experience. Our survey group travelled to the wild Frankland River with Todd Walsh, in the quest to capture a Giant Freshwater Crayfish. It wasn't long before we were presented with a magnificent 'blue' lobster. Who would have thought!
I have lived in Tassie most of my life and have never heard of or seen a 'blue' lobster. It turns out they are only found in this particular river in the Tarkine. We are looking forward to more new discoveries tomorrow!
We stood in a blackened patch. The scrub that had once stood there had been burnt down to charred sticks. The sandy soil was bare, apart from a few brave patches of green. “We will start here” said Christopher, our entomologist leader. There were some doubtful shuffles amongst the group as the specimen vials were passed around, but we started searching in earnest.
We found an ant. Christian, our ant expert looked mildly interested. I spotted a second, expecting him to dismiss it as the same as the first, but it was a different species! Christian pointed out the seeds around the entrance to its nest, and if I looked I could see the telltale pile of seeds all over. A few minutes later and we had spotted 3 more species, all small and black. Then I spotted an inchman. Christian looked excited and snapped it up into his vial quick smart. He started speaking of an elusive ant he wanted to see, an iridescent blue and green species never before confirmed in Tasmania. Just as I was contemplating this Christopher called time. Vials were labelled and the field box was heaved on to the next site. Not such a bad haul after all.
On route I trailed at the back looking at the small things. The carnivorous sundews were in flower. Someone spotted a leech. We didn’t collect it. Abbey, our moth expert, waved her net, catching a beautiful butterfly. So, so delicately she prised it from the net, taking care not to brush the tiny scales from its wings. She told me of moths that feed on moss. An energetic participant caught a flame coloured moth and presented it to Abbey as a gift. I could have wandered all day but we had invertebrates to collect.
At our second site we snapped into gear. We divided into groups, each to collect invertebrates using a different collection method. There were soon nets being waved, shrubs whacked with sticks, leaves inspected, water sieved and some very serious operations with tiny paintbrushes taking place. Slowly our vials were filled, to be taken back to our base camp lab for identification. What weird and wonderful things were in those little tubes I wondered as we finished up for lunch.
BioBlitz 2016 is underway - take a look at the first video...
A big thank you to Straight Up Coffee and Food for supplying Tarkine BioBlitz 2016 with Gluten-Free bread :-)
Over the past 2 years of Tarkine in Motion, Tarkine BioBlitz, and Falls Festival Loo Crew, Michelle from Harvest Feast has gone absolutely out of her way to supply with incredible fresh produce.
We love you Michelle!
At last year’s Tarkine BioBlitz the orchid man was a tad disappointed. I wrote on the blog:
“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.”
And guess what? Yes, that’s right, the great fires that burned through the summer for days and nights and weeks, making us anxious for the fate of our beloved Tassie wilderness, went through the buttongrass at Dempster Plains, the BioBlitz survey site. Orchid man Craig Broadfield is having a massively exciting Spring, orchid spotting in burn areas. He hasn’t been to Dempster Plains yet but says, “the sun orchids and leek orchids that I know were present on the plains should have responded very well. Down in the wetter parts the Burnettia cuneata (lizard orchid) – which only flowers after a fire – should be bursting out all over the place. They are one of the orchids I call Phoenix orchids as they arise from the ashes!”
And in breaking news from the Tarkine, Craig has announced his discovery of a large population of the rare threatened species Pterostylis cucullata subsp. cucullata – Leafy Greenhood to us plebeians. Thought to be extinct on mainland Tas until 2007, this is the third, and largest population to be found in the Tarkine – Craig has counted 1,258 plants in just 2 days!
Orchid obsessives, this is your year! Join us for the 2016 Tarkine BioBlitz, we’re going to be counting masses of beautiful, strange flowers in a frenzy of discovery and wonder. Get your eye in by checking out the Tasmanian Native Orchids FB page https://www.facebook.com/groups/tasnativeorchids/
BioBlitz 2016 bookings now open!
This year we are heading back to the coast and the now fire affected plains as well as visiting threatened ancient forests to conduct this festival of science in nature. In one of the world’s last wild places, takayna / Tarkine, our BioBlitz will discover and record as many living things as possible over a weekend.
BioBlitzes are fun, educational and meaningful to the community, naturalists and scientists alike. This is an event where everyone can explore, learn and contribute to our knowledge of biodiversity. Through BioBlitz we will together create a significant resource of biodiversity data and have an opportunity to share knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural world and one of the last wild places on the planet, takayna / Tarkine.
The main goal of this event is to survey the biological diversity of takayna / Tarkine. We will conduct an intensive field study of three locations in the Tarkine – a coastal region, the plains and forest region. A central base camp will provide comfortable facilities to share discoveries, identify and collate specimens, database records and, of course, rest and relax after a day in the field.
Our base camp for the duration of the event will be at the Riverbend Youth Centre, approximately 6km south of Smithton. We will be travelling out each day to the Tarkine locations and regrouping in the evening at the base camp to share food, discoveries and stories.
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