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Microbats, Tarantulas and Botanic Discoveries


Monica Lilley

Today started bright and early with trap checking. After checking 26 traps and being thoroughly disappointed with no finds, we were pleasantly surprised to have caught 2 microbats in the harp trap. Heather the mammologist collects DNA from them so they can identify what bat species are in this area.

After a quick breakfast, we were of again in the chopper to work with the botanists Will and Jerry and Robert, an arachnologist to explore some new places in the park. The first place was very rocky and filled with a plant called Spinifex. If you haven’t encountered this plant before, you are lucky! It is extremely spiky, so not at all pleasant to walk through. Unfortunately, we had to walk through lots to go anywhere. I started with Robert the spider specialist and it wasn’t long before a tarantula burrow was spotted and the digging began. It was absolutely fascinating to watch Robert dig the tarantula out of its hole. The spider turned out to be a female and had a medium sized baby with it as well. They were both collected using toilet paper tubes before moving on to the next stop. Tarantula likes small spaces so they happily go inside a squished toilet roll. Another interesting point is that this particular species is believed (can’t be confirmed before DNA testing) to be a new species of tarantula!

Back on the chopper for a long and bumpy ride to the other side of the national park. This spot had extremely different vegetation than the first. Lots of gum trees, grasses, flat ground and luckily no spinifex! This site is a swap, but because the weather is so dry at the moment there was no water or mud. I decided to stick with the botanists for this trip, and we made our way through the landscape collecting lots of different plants and trying some very interesting bush tucker as well. One of the botanists, Jerry is an Ewamian man, one of traditional owners from this area who was able to educate us lots about the plants around us.

One of the plants of interest from two of the scientists was a carnivorous plant called Sundew or Drosera sonata. The plant eats insects by them getting stuck on the sticky traps on the end of the leaves before curling over the top of it to devour it. Pretty cool! Soon after we decided to skip the next stops and go back to camp as it was starting to get windy and rain was on the way, which is not ideal flying conditions so off we went.

Back at camp, had a little rest then helped Will and Heather set up a mist net down by the creek close by. A mist net is a very fine net that goes over a waterway. It is an efficient way to catch birds at dawn and bats at dusk and the evening. After setting up the trap, we soaked in the start of the afternoon storm by watching the clouds roll in by the water before heading up to camp for dinner. It was lucky we left when we did, as it poured and we got a total of 18mm of rain within an hour. I was relieved to find my tent stayed dry.

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