Skip to main content

She Oaks and Fires


Janet Price

We were helicoptered to a bend in the Gilbert River that had She-oaks. As we landed two dingoes came out from the far bank to see who we were. Jenny was collecting needles to find microscopic mites on them. Michael, Sabrina and I went along the dry creek bed with butterfly nets looking for any bugs we could find. Butterflies, dragonflies, beetles…were all put into vials for delivery to base camp. It was a relaxing morning and fun to see what we could catch. After lunch we crossed the river to have a look at the other bank. We spied a pompilus (large orange wasp) hunting. It wasn’t long before we saw the huntsman he was looking for. The huntsman made a break across clear ground but was hunted down and stung then wedged in grass as the wasp hunted for its nest (which we may have trampled)

The helicopter took us to site R, collected the other team, then brought us back to base camp. Thirty minutes later we set off in three 4W drives. JR and Kenny (TO) and Nick (Ranger) were keen to burn some of the land before the forecast rains. JR and Kenny told us about lighting the fire in an area called the box that had a natural boundary. The old grass would burn and green grass would remain. Burning removes low fuel – one of the big three fire needs (oxygen and ignition). We felt the burned patch immediately after burning and it was cool already but the dry grass gone (made into duff which is a layer of decomposing organic materials below the litter and immediately above the mineral soil.) As the fire caught, our job was to find and catch every bug, spider or anything that was alerted to the danger and ran. We had vials full of all kinds of insects, bags of moths and butterflies and a bag of spiders. Hopefully some of them may be undescribed species.

After collecting and burning some more, we headed home.

From base camp we went with Heather and Will to set some Elliot and wire traps down near the creek beneath base camp. Will put up a mist net and we helped set up another harp trap for bats. We are heading down in the morning to see what they get.

Another amazing day, full of learning and wonder!