Traps and Spiders
An early 6am start as we went to check the wire traps and Elliot traps. There were no small mammals in any of the traps, not even cane toads. There were, however, two micro bats in the harp trap. Heather caught them and put them in a canvas bag. She will use them for DNA samples. To identify them correctly you need to look at teeth type and that cannot be done while alive. These sample will be used by many other scientists. When we got back to base camp, we had a look at the bats. After interviewing Heather about her finds, we packed ready for a full day in the field. The helicopter took us to site E, a spinifex covered landscape. I joined Robert on the hunt for spiders. The spinifex was difficult to walk through and every step shot needles into the lower legs – incredibly itchy needles!! We wandered for a while searching for holes when Michael found one. Deciding it was an older one, Robert then stumbled across another one. This had silk around the top, indicating a tarantula was home. Robert settled in for a dig. He carefully scraped away the earth around it (it was just below a termite mound – inbuilt food) and found his way into the tunnels. He was able to extract her…and a baby tarantula as well!! He put them in a folded toilet roll (more high tech equipment) and put the baby into a vial with some earth.
We then headed up the hill onto the rocks, away from the spinifex! to search for more holes in the ground. Sabrina found a web in a tree that turned out to be a curtain web spider. These spiders use an extensive curtain web outside their burrow to catch prey. In this case the web was in sheets all through the log. When Robert pulled it out it felt soft and stretchy. There were corridors and tubes through the stump. He traced his way to her and extracted her. Quite a big spider again, who immediately crawled up his sleeve!!
From there we wandered further up the cliff where I found another tarantula burrow. This time we left it there.
The helicopter came at 12 and took us to site J.
Site J was about 37km from base and there was a marked change in landscape as we landed. Gone were the spinifex (hooray!!) and there was a paddock of River gums with beautiful white trunks. Alongside was a dry swamp area. Here I joined the botanists and we wandered into the swamp area. We tasted dogs balls fruits, spear grass roots and native hibiscus seeds. We wandered for about an hour looking for grasses and different plants. Matt found some fungus and took samples.
At 3 the helicopter took us back to camp. The afternoon was washing, early showers and photo transfers.
A huge storm rolled in at dinner.