Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back From The Bush

The weary traveller returns! I had the best time. I spent some of the time wandering the bush with students and lecturers, learning, observing, listening, photographing, and the rest of the time socialising, having quiet time alone, knitting, napping and just enjoying the surrounds. Tall & Handsome was often off with students, but some of the time I tagged along and the rest of the time we got a rare opportunity to hang out together.

The scribbles on the bark are the tracks of burrowing insects, which burrow around under the bark before it's shed by the tree.

Leaf Galls
Leaf galls on a eucalypt leaf.

The permanent university field station we were based at had very comfortable accommodation, without being so plush that you felt like you were at a resort rather than a teaching field station. I was initially a little worried about feeling like a tag-along, but all the teaching staff and students made me feel very much a participant rather than an observer. The students were such a lovely bunch of kids, all 30 of them 3rd year university students in their very early 20s. Faith in The Young People Of Today restored!

I shot this leech shortly after it was taken off my leg. On one hand fascinating (those orange markings, the way they fling themselves with uncanny accuracy up your trouser leg), on the other hand... ewww.

The shoreline of Smiths Lake, on the edge of the field station grounds.

I took lots of pics. In such amazing surroundings it was all I could do to put down my camera at times! I've added around 50 of the highlights to Flickr in this set, but I'm still tagging the pics and adding descriptions. It's a long slow progress!

Banksia Spinulosa
Banksia spinulosa growing in the bush.

There were lots of highlights; watching Tall & Handsome with his students, going for an impromptu late afternoon swim in the sea at Seal Rocks while dark rain clouds rolled in, a (surprisingly) exhilarating late night hunt for frogs in a pitch dark forest in the rain, relaxing with good food and a glass of wine in the company of an interesting and enthusiastic group of people...

Early morning checking of the trap lines. Each night 25 small traps were set along several trap lines, and then in the morning the animals were recorded, weighed, sexed, marked (with a tiny dab of pink nail polish!) and released unharmed. In fact they got a free feed, and a snug predator free night's sleep in the bargain.

Antechinus Stuartii
An antechinus stuartii, a small roughly mouse sized marsupial and so very, very cute. We caught a lot of these little guys who have a unique life cycle, they mate for extended periods of time (like 13 hours at a stretch!), with various partners, and then sadly the 1 year old males all die from the stress of the process. The females can live a little longer, sometimes for a couple of years, but those are the exception more than the rule.

Litoria Revelata
A litoria revelata (or Whirring Tree Frog), a tiny tree frog with a distinctive whirring sort of call. These guys are teeny tiny, that's a medium sized grass blade he's clinging to. We managed to capture and release three different types of frogs (and one intermediate stage froglet), but the night was alive with the calls of many more.

It's nice to be home (where thankfully one doesn't have to be diligent about ticks and leeches) but I miss waking up to the dawn chorus of bird calls, or the late night chittering of the bats and eccentric frog calls. Tall & Handsome is wrapping up the course tomorrow, while I came home early to go back to work today (blech), and then he's hanging out with me until after next weekend. I only got home late last night, so tonight I've pottered around a bit, done a small load of washing, made some chicken soup, puts some pics up on Flickr... and now it's already past the time I was going to go to bed. Without any bat calls tonight...


worldpeace and a speedboat said...

squawk! antechinus! Lai and Alison's fmailies were involved in a breeding scheme for a while about 20 years ago... hilarious and gorgeous.

lovely lovely photos my dear :-)

Mel said...

Jealous, jealous, jealous. Well, except for the leech.

freakgirl said...

Your photos are remarkable. Looks like a wonderful little trip.

knitguyla said...

You had me right up until the leach - yuck! How are ya stranger?

Ur-spo said...

I have longed to go to Australia to see its many sights, but one of the main features is to see all the unique flora and fauna.
I hear tell a lot of them are nasty poisonous though

LynS said...

The pics are every bit as beautiful as I thought they would be.

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks for the compliments on the pics everyone!

Speedy, small world eh?! Antechinus are so incredibly cute, but then I like rodents. :)

The leeches were a bit off-putting in both theory and practice, but they were kind of amazing also. I mean, how a sluglike thing manages to fling itself up you trouser like is kind of incredible. No? Anyone?...

The Other Andrew said...

Oh ur-spo, I should also add that yes we do have quite a few poisonous things... but I think that's frequently overstated. They're generally easy to avoid and have their own specific habitats.

thombeau said...

Welcome back, mate! Missed ya!

Graeme said...

The poisonous ones down-under tend to be the humans! Especially the Whitus Trashius genus ;-)

mrpeenee said...

I'm glad you had such a lovely time. And being able to look forward to a week of Tall & Handsome! Hoo hoo.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

any of those marsupials are just TOO cute! we saw bilbies at the Easter Show yesterday - I really didn't know they were quite so big.

LaDivaCucina said...

Loverly, Andrew! I wish I had more time to get to the country when I visited. I did manage to get in a fantastic bush walk in Garigal Nat'l Park which is just near my friend's place.

HATE BLOODY LEECHES! It's so funny to see them coming towards you (when you have warning, that is!)

I'm digging the little "ever-rooting" marsupials! tres cute!

PS to Ur-spo: In the 10 + years I lived and traveled all over Australia, I've seen two brown snakes, never did see a funnel web or redback spider and one shark alarm. Lotsa bull ants and green ants though. That is, if you are scared of ants. Nuff said.

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