Little Desert National Park VIC Bush Blitz | Oct 2018

Yesterday, here in the Little Desert, it was 36 degrees. Overnight, the tent flapped and blew, but didn't come down. Up soon after 5am to head off with the herpetologists (the reptile team) to check the pitfall traps that had been set overnight. These traps are plastic buckets sunk about 35 cm into the ground. On either side, long mesh "fences" about 15cm high, extend out into the desert. These are drift nets. They exist to prevent reptiles (and lots of other things) from completing their planned journey through the desert. Instead they walk (or scurry, or scuttle, or crawl) along the miniature fence, and then suddenly and unexpectedly, tumble into one of the pit fall traps. They are not uncomfortable or in danger there though. The scientists provide the traps with little polypipe houses, stuffed with fluffy stuff (dacron) to keep mammals warm if they are stuck overnight. There is also a piece of cork to soak up any rainwater that may fall into the trap, and some sand for burrowing into.

Today, we visited five strings of pitfall traps in the morning, and a different five in the afternoon, to see what animals had been caught.

My favourite was probably the fat-tailed dunnarts - little critters about the size of mice but with huge eyes and sharp pointy teeth. Their favourite diet is scorpions, and there were plenty of those too in the traps. There were many sorts of spiders, and cockroaches, Banjo (Pobblebonk) frogs, in the desert, miles from any water. And yes, there were reptiles, several different sorts of legless lizards, some geckos, some skinks. The other reptile team trapped a snake as well.

I have learned such a lot about these animals, from the amazing and dedicated scientists from the Melbourne Museum. For example, I can now tell you what sex a skink is - well - one species of skink anyway. I can show you the evolutionary remnants of legs on a legless lizard and I can identify a desert scorpion (angry little fellas!).

Tonight, the moth team are going to trap some moths, and tomorrow, we are all travelling into the nearest town (Nhill) to present information at the town hall to interested local residents.

And there is still so much more to do!

My immediate plan though is to hope the wind dies down so the tent flaps less tonight and we can all get some well-earned rest!