A few night time visits to the park to get a better idea of the night flying insects that live in Tarra-Bulga have been reaping rewards. Here are just a few highlights of what is flying or crawling about our tall forests. All sightings are being uploaded to our project on www.bowerbird.org.au where they can hopefully be identified and then placed on the the Atlas of Living Australia and become a permanent record in their searchable online database.
When is the best time of year to visit Tarra-Bulga? I would argue any time of year could be the answer as each season tends to bring its own particular highlights.
In spring you have lots of fresh new growth and it is the peak time to catch most things in flower. In summer the shady rainforest gullies are an ideal retreat from the heat. In autumn, the diversity of fungi adds to the experience. In winter, everything is lush and green. After rain, cascading mini waterfalls in unexpected places can add to the spectacle. It is also the time when Lyrebirds are putting on displays.
Heavy snowfalls are a relatively rare event at Tarra Bulga National Park. A large dump in August 2005 caused a lot of damage to the park’s vegetation due to the weight of the snow. Today’s snow is the biggest dump since this event and hopefully the damage will not be too severe but it certainly will have an impact.
This morning there were plenty of tree branches cracking under the weight of the snow and in more open areas shrubs were taking a battering. Tree Ferns are an ideal shape to catch snow on their fronds, but thankfully they seem very good at recovering from damage. The area where our working bee was a week and a half ago was covered in snow, which is not an ideal start for our newly planted Mountain Ash seedlings.
It was interesting to see the Fauna’s reaction to the sudden icy change to their landscape with a confused Kangaroo hopping about (outside the park boundary) and Lyrebirds and other species buzzing around and looking a bit agitated. The snow would have affected mainly the higher elevations in the park, with sites along the Grand Ridge Rd catching the heaviest falls.
Less than ideal conditions beckoned for this years count, indeed when I woke up at 5.15 am and heard the rain pelting down on the roof, I fired up the computer and checked the rain radar and saw that it was going to continue to bucket down, (especially at Balook) for the foreseeable future. I put the text through to Ranger Craig, who soon phoned back and told me the decision had been made given the weather to postpone. He said he would go up anyway just in case anyone turned up, and I returned to bed.
Much to my surprise, 2 days later I heard the news, that when Craig arrived at the Visitors Centre there was quite a crowd, who despite the weather were raring to go (much kudos to those hardy souls).
Reports suggest that the inclement weather may have influenced the survey, with several sites unusually recording no calls whatsoever. There were however Lyrebirds around with reports of a group foraging directly in front of the Visitors Centre. Possibly the much needed rain produced ideal conditions for the birds to feed, so inconveniently the boys were more focused on filling their stomachs, rather than attracting the ladies with their fancy calls. Despite the visual sightings, only two male birds within the survey area could be properly counted using our call based technique. Hopefully the drop in numbers can be attributable to the conditions, rather than more sinister reasons such as increased fox numbers. In any case I am sure we will be back next year with hopefully more favourable conditions to do it all again. I also hope that despite the conditions that the hardy survey team had a great morning and the usual scrumptious breakfast at the guest house.
PS. To any of the attendees that braved the conditions and got a good photo of any aspect of the morning, it would be great if you could forward it on, so we could add it to this report.
Hopefully they won’t be a huge threat to the ecology of Tarra-Bulga National Park but it was interesting to spot this crop of potatoes that seem to have become naturalised in a small patch in the park on the roadside along the Bulga Park Rd.
This post is a summary of the Remote Camera Monitoring results over December and January 2012/13
Camera 1 – Still out of action after it was attacked by an aggressive lyrebird.
Camera 2 – Located in mature Wet Forest in the Tarra Valley was quite a prolific site, with the camera picking up lots of small birds e.g. White-browed Scrub Wrens and Bassian and Grey-Shrike Thrushes, as well as mammals such as Antechinus and Long-nosed Bandicoots, unfortunately there were plenty of Foxes and a Feral Cat present. Also plenty of Wombats, Wallabies and some Brushtails.
This video made up from a series of still photos from one of our remote cameras along with some sound recorded by our songmeter shows a Male Superb Lyrebird systematically scratching around for food underneath the leaf litter. This scratching results in the leaf litter being turned over and is thought to improve the rate of nutrient cycling in the forest, helping to create compost that will feed the vegetation.