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Searching for an Oasis


Lynette Hillier

All good field work requires solid preparation, so today's efforts were concentrated on determining the best areas to catch butterflies. Several sites had been predetermined using maps, by butterfly specialist Dr Rodney Eastwood, and now needed to be visually assessed to determine if they were suitable – and how do you do that in an area as vast and as remote as the Kimberleys? Via helicopter of course! We circled around various hilly mounds in search of an easily assessable area for helicopter landing, whilst also trying to find a hill that was high enough with trees not too tall, but not too short either. The species of butterfly Dr Rodney is hoping to find eats tree ants and seeks out high areas to meet other butterflies to mate. They find each other by equally seeking out high places – or as Dr Rodney explained “Its Tinder for butterflies”.

It was an amazing experience to be able to fly over the beautiful and vast landscape. We stopped for lunch at site F7 which was approximately 60km North East of the Charnely River Homestead in the Willinggin Indigenous Protection Area. The entomologists (AKA the Bug people) were sampling this area for variety of insects and it was the best lunch date I have ever had. It was truly a spectacular place and a privilege to be part of the team researching the biodiversity in such a remote area.

Several sites were viewed from the air and a massive thanks to Helicopter pilot Sam for his exceptional skills and ability to land the vehicle in sites not even thought possible!

A quick rest back at base camp before heading out with Herpetologist Mark to check the reptile traps. The traps were a combination of mesh traps and pitfall traps along a barrier. As the animals approached the barrier they would be unable to climb over it and run along the length until they either fell into a pit or entered a trap, neither of which they would be able to get out of. In the traps we caught a Snake Eyed skink, a Rainbow skink, a Scolopendrid centipede, and a trap door spider to pass onto the arachnologists.

It was race against the sun to get back before dark and we rolled into camp as another spectacular sunset spread across the land, closing another epic day on the Bush Blitz.