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Helicopters, flowers and bugs


Tim Reilly

This morning started out with checking all the traps that we set the night before. Unfortunately we didn't find anything in the 15 Elliot traps or 9 pit fall traps, but we had success with 2 out of 3 of the wire cage traps (one of which was the one I set - very exciting). The first had a spotted/ northern quoll and the other a bandicoot. Others were excited to see a quoll for the first time as they are endangered on the main land. For myself living here I come across them in all places around my backyard, even under my car bonnet.

The second part of my day was a first for me, getting to fly in a helicopter. There isn't many roads on Groote Eylandt so the helicopters get used a bit to access some of the areas that are otherwise only accessible by walking 20 plus kilometers to get to. The helicopter took us to Central Hill which was sandstone country. Here we worked with a botanist to help gather samples for museums around Australia. I was blown away with her knowledge of all the plants we came across. She was able to rattle off the scientific names of everything, so much so that I was totally overwhelmed trying to remember at least a few of the more special ones. We looked carefully for any plants with flowers and fruit. If the botanists sheet said that the species was data deficient we gathered 5 or so samples which would be pressed when we got back to the ranger base that night. From there they will be transported back to Darwin and placed in a special freezer for a week at the NT Herborium to kill any pests that the leaves might contain. Some of the rarer samples were placed in a small zip-lock back with silica for genetic sampling.

There are around 1000 species of plants recorded to be on Groote Eylandt, with around 5 new ones added each day the team of botanists have been out here taking samples. One of the key findings was the Utricularia which is a threatened species in the NT, and the closest it has been found was in Kakadu. Donna said that due to the discovery it may help to remove the threatened status.

After another short helicopter flight to another site it was time to see what the "bug lady" was up to. Ali was excited to find some small bugs - Setocoris, which is one of the few bugs that doesn't get trapped by the carnivorous plant- Drosora. We saw lots of beautiful butterflies, dragonflies and even some cool coloured grasshoppers. I tried catching some for the community day but they were too fast for me and we didn't have the right type of net to swoop them in. We explored a rainforest section where I discovered a tree with red/ maroon paper bark. I showed it to Donna but she wasn't able to tell me the name like she had for the other 200 plus plants. I left it for the other botanist to have a look at when he returns to the base and am keen to see what he says about it tomorrow.

All in all a massive day, I was blown away by the knowledge and passion of the botanists and I got to go on helicopter!