Contemplation and butterfly nets
A Brolga flying overhead started the day. What a start to our last day in the field. The river had risen again so many photos later we check the board to see what the day would bring. I love the buzz of the morning as Courtney works out the helicopter roster and everyone decides where they want to go and when. Some go from site to site so the helicopter roster is important to get right.
I was lucky enough to get on the 8am helicopter to site N, not previously visited by anyone! I was heading out with Jenny, Robert, Chris and Susan. The flight was about 15 minutes to the south of the park. The river was spectacular, a brown snake winding through the land, fed by many other smaller creeks. The boys landed us on the top of a rocky escarpment, magnificent flying as always and an amazing landing. Everyone seemed to just disappear into the bush, after their own particular specimen search. I helped out Susan who was waiting for the sun and the butterflies.
We started with ants! Armed with a paintbrush (for the smaller ants) and some vials, I scoured under rocks, behind bark and just about anywhere I thoughts ants would be and made a fairly decent collection. I picked up a log with fungi on it to bring back for Matt (turns out it is a first sighting of it in the park 😊). After about an hour and a half we had morning tea then set our sights on butterflies and flying things. The idea was to create a baseline of data about what was at that site.
It was such a wonderful morning, fossicking by myself, sometimes on the ground, sometimes chasing down butterflies. The silence of the forest, the trickle of a waterfall, the song of the birds and being amongst people with a focus and a passion for their particular animal or plant.
At 12.20 the helicopter came to take us back to base. Everyone was happy with their morning and we returned with samples of leaves, lizards, butterflies, ants and even a snake.
Next on the agenda was dung traps. We headed out with Susan to set some traps with the poo balls we had previously made. A colleague of hers is studying native dung beetles so this was to collect specimens to see what was in the park. We checked traps already set and found a couple already. This trap was a pit-fall trap. This time a cup was embedded in the earth with a dung (or smelly substance) suspended over it. The insects are attracted to the scent and fall into the detergent water mix trying to get to the dung.
Our final task for the day was to head to the very swollen creek armed once again with the butterfly nets. There is something special about walking around with a butterfly net. I know it is part of each scientist’s equipment but for those not in the field there is a childlike whimsey to it. We hunted down dragonflies, butterflies, mantis’ and even wasps. We saw nature at work, an Assassin Bug injecting a bee with venom (it then is liquified so the bug can digest it) and two ants tearing apart a red-backed spider. It’s a dangerous world down there.
Finally, sadly our work in the field came to an end and we headed up for dinner and packing. We are leaving by about 7am in the morning so there was a lot to organise (and find!).