Naturising with Naturalists

It won’t come as a surprise to you, that the other day I finally joined the Tasmanian Field Naturalists. I had been meaning to for a while, but it was one of those things I kept forgetting to do, which also wouldn’t surprise you… However I finally remembered and took myself along to my first Tas Field Nat meeting on Thursday night and off on my first outing today.

Green-lined Ground Beetle

Why did I not do this ages ago? This is the best thing ever. Thursday night I learnt about the Green-lined Ground beetle, also known as Catadromous lacordairei. A rad little beetle who only lives in a few parts of Tassie, if I remember correctly mainly from Oatlands and up a bit, and maybe across a bit… Anyway, it isn’t common. And it is quite big for a Tassie beetle, about 3cm I think. Karen Richards, who gave the talk, found a few little eggs and managed to get one to hatch and then documented the first few months of its life. Crikey, I must say, I have no idea about beetles lives, or most crawly things really, but they are pretty fricking cool! I never realised they changed so much and so fast and end up looking absolutely nothing like they start out to be. To be honest, I thought I might have been a bit bored listening to a talk about a beetle, because you know, plants. I was wrong. Beetles are amazing little dudes, and when you actually open your eyes and look for things which aren’t stationary and growing out of dirt then there are loads of them around… I have a new appreciation for bugs and beetles and crawly things…

Photographer unknown, I pinched this off the Threatened Species page :-)

Photographer unknown, I pinched this off the Threatened Species page 🙂

Bats don’t like the rain

You wouldn’t either if you had super thin little bat wings that were only a few skin layers thick. I reckon a normal old rain drop to them would be like basketball sized hail stones to us. I learnt that bats don’t like the rain on Friday night when Erika and I went out to Taroona to spot some. Of course, it rained. I think I have a negative impact on Taroona, I am a bad omen. The first time I went there I locked my keys in the boot of car, and then Friday night we went early to shoot some rad clouds before looking for bats, but I forgot the battery for my camera. And then it rained. Good thing that Lisa Cawthen, who is Tassies Bat girl expert was super awesome and kept us all entertained telling us about bats (she rattled off some other names about other bat people who have lots of bat knowledge but Erika has decided she is the bat expert, so the bat expert she shall be). I like people like this. People who love what they do and love to share what they know about it with other people, even in the dark and the rain on a Friday night.

We have 8 species of micro bat in Tasmania. Micro bats being little bats, not the big ones like the fruit bats that I used to watch fly all over Melbourne, these are tiny little ones, some as small as your thumb and the biggest about the size of your fist (pretty sure that’s right). They don’t really live in caves, although colonies have been found in a few caves, most of them dead. One hypothesis for that is that Tassie caves are pretty cold, and the bats curl up into sleepy land and because it doesn’t really warm up much then they miss their cue to wake up and eat insects and therefore starve themselves :-(. Our micro bats much prefer to live in tree hollows, in between the cracks in the bark, and a nice roof if they can get in and it is cosy. After the birds go to sleep they venture out to eat as many insects as they can and dart around amongst the trees. Next warm night (that isn’t rainy) Erika and I plan to go bat hunting. We are determined to see them, Lisa has us hooked, thank you for a wonderful night!

And the best bit is they come out at the right time of night for me. I can head out, shoot a nice sunset, wait for the bats and then it will be aurora time! Who needs sleep… Sleep is for the weak.

I have a few photos, off my phone as I had no battery…

4 hours, 3 thumbs

Which brings us to todays outing. The monthly wander with the Tas Field Nats looking for all things nature. Todays wander was at the Three Thumbs track in Orford and it was absolutely wonderful! Well worth getting up at 8am on a Sunday morning for. I don’t do mornings, so it was hard work for me. I had so many brains to pick, it was brilliant. Botanists, fungi people, bird people, spider people, snail people, people who love ALL the things and have so much knowledge and passion for anything that grows or moves. Generally when I go out wandering with other people, we are usually all after the same thing, fungi or orchids mainly, so it is amazing to realise the things you miss when you aren’t looking for them, or you aren’t really paying attention. We managed to cover about 4 km’s in roughly 4 hours which was a good effort I think considering the amount of things there are to look at.

I have this newish kinda of phobia for snakes. Snakes themselves don’t bother me, but the idea of stumbling across one whilst out walking has me a little freaked out. Today there seemed to be some kind of skink festival going on, they were everywhere! I even had to adjust my foot landing a few times because they were skinking under my feet. Of course they helped to freak me out every so often when a bigger one would move and make a noise, and I thought it was a snake coming to eat me. Not one snake was seen though. Not by me anyway. Amanda had a close encounter whilst kneeling down photographing something, a Copperhead, who was cruising on toward her. She is alive and no harm was done, but it did leave me a little nervous!

I was quite happy to discover that bird man Mick was a botanist, well he still is, but he just chases around after birds mainly now. So of course I harassed him as much as I could trying to remember all the names and all the things he was telling us… I learnt how to tell the age of a Banksia by counting its nodes, and how to tell if it had a good year or a bad year by how close they are. I saw Epacris marginata, who is an endemic to East coast area and just a few spots and only on specific type of rock. We talked about these neo endemics a lot at uni this year, so I get excited when I can put a face to a name. I saw some hybrid swamping in real life amongst the Bedfordia, that’s when two species hybridise and kind of kick out their parents rather than them leaving home and finding a new place to live. So most (if not all?) of the Bedfordia around that area are a hybrid form. I think I am a little bit closer to being able to identify Eucalyptus pulchella and learnt a few more tricks on telling E. obliqua and E.delegatensis apart. Such a productive day. So many things I don’t know, so many new plants I hadn’t heard of and just so much awesome.

I was also surprised to learn that leeches like dry sclerophyll, and they are freaking huge! Much bigger than the ones I find on the mountain. Leeches fascinate me, the way they can detect you and stretch their little bodies to give you a big squishy hug. Although none wanted to hug me today, except the ones I was poking at. Well, not actually poking at, because that would be mean. But if you hold your hand above them they stretch up and follow you around. They would make good pets I reckon, they would never leave your side.

This is a bit of a long one. I was going to break it up, but it is all kind of related awesomeness. I can’t wait for more outings and talks on all kinds of things. What a great bunch of people. Thank you Tas Field Nats for existing. And thank you Lisa for introducing me to the wonderful world of Bats!

Over and out.


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