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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: wildlife survey (2)

Frogs, bogs and fungi

by Mark Norman
Publish date
2 December 2011
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Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

By 25 November, rain drenched Neds Corner and the clay turned to slippery mud. Great weather for frogs. With the rain's arrival, frogs emerged from the mud as our vehicles sank into it.

Rain at Ned's Corner Rain at Ned's Corner. Left: The view from the homestead porch | Right: Boggy road
Image: M. Hewish / M. Cheng
Source: M. Hewish / M. Cheng

Pobblebonk frogs turned up everywhere. In our pitfall trap lines, 30 pits contained 37 frogs. These frogs bury into the soil in the dry weather and wait for the rains. Then they emerge to feed and mate.

Pobblebonk Frog Pobblebonk Frog (Limnodynastes dumerili) at Neds Corner.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria

The other frogs we encountered were the Spadefoot, Spotted and Barking Marsh Frogs, Peron's Tree Frog and a froglet (genus Crinia). The tree frogs can be recognised by their padded toes, good for climbing.

Peron's Tree Frog Peron's Tree Frog (Litoria peroni) with beautiful green spots.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

The wetter weather was also good for the fungi and Dr Teresa Lebel from the National Herbarium of Victoria found many new records for this region. In arid country many types of fungus rest under the soil in a shrivelled state. As soon as the water reaches them, their stalks hydrate and the heads of species like puffball fungi emerge above the mud to release their spores.

Fungi after rain at Ned's Corner. Fungi after rain at Ned's Corner. Left: Fruiting bodies of the Earth Star fungus | Right: Tinder Conch fungus
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria

One of the fungus highlights was finding fallen white shelf fungi at the bases of big River Red Gums. The spongy dead fungus is called Tinder Conch fungus as Aboriginal peoples used it for carrying the slow-burning coals needed for fire starting.

Our survey team was not as well-adapted as the frogs and managed to bog three cars in one day, but a combination of winches and effort got us all home safe and sound.

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.


Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

Frogs of Victoria infosheet series

Royal Botanical Gardens Fungimap

Bush Blitz finds

by Kate C
Publish date
23 March 2011
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This morning Patrick Honan from Live Exhibits instructed the Bush Blitz team to keep an eye out for Mountain Katydids (Acripeza reticulata). These are large, robust long-horned grasshoppers that are usually found in cold high-altitude areas so Patrick was surprised to see them recorded in a previous ecological survey of Lake Condah. Ranger Brad Williams and botanist Val Stajsic brought in two specimens from Muldoons that they’d found on Tuesday, suggesting that they’re reasonably common here.

Muldoons is property adjacent to the Lake Condah Mission site but getting there is not straightforward. There was a bridge decades ago dating back to when it was the hunting ground for people living on the mission. Matt Butt, the Coordinator of Land Management, explained that the bridge was washed away in a heavy flood in the 1940s. The road into the property was built only five years ago and the terrain is incredibly rocky. It’s also incredibly beautiful; the bush is largely intact since the ground was too rocky to be any good for agriculture. The ground is dotted with rock-lined sinkholes in the lava flow from Mount Eccles (known to Gunditjmara people as Budj Bim, meaning ‘high head’). Some of the sinkholes are full of water where Remko Leijs, from the South Australian Museum, has sampled the small crustaceans that live in the groundwater. Later in Bush Blitz some of the MV marine scientists will put on their SCUBA gear to film the wildlife of these water bodies.

Most of the MV biologists were at Muldoons for a couple of hours this morning and found some amazing animals. And yes, one of them was a Mountain Katydid plodding through low grass just a metre away from the road. She’s a female and particularly fat, possibly because she’s full of eggs. She’s gone back to Melbourne Museum with the Live Exhibits staff where they hope she will be the start of a captive colony for display.

female Mountain Katydid Female Mountain Katydid found at Muldoons.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria

Budj Bim rangers Simone Sailor-Smith and Deb Rose caught a beautiful Jewel Spider (Austracantha minax). Another amazing find was a Peripatus or velvet worm. These are ancient animals that share some characteristics with worms and some with arthropods, and haven’t changed much in millions of years.

Peripatus The tiny and beautiful velvet worm found at Muldoons.
Image: julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria

We also found scorpions, centipedes, beetles, lacewings, ants and lizards. Where possible, the team is only collecting the first specimen that is caught and releasing subsequent finds. For birds and mammals, the surveys are by sight, by ear or through capture and release. The birders spent a few hours this afternoon at Lake Condah and reported breeding Musk Ducks plus three Reed Warblers which is interesting because they have usually flown north by this time of year.

leech One of the hungry tiger leeches that are common in swamps, on low shrubs, and clinging to Bush Blitzers!
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria

Of course, all this time we're spending in swamps is great for one local animal - the leech. We've all become quite good at spotting and flicking leeches before they latch on to feed, but some of us have still become hosts for these blood-sucking parasites...

Peter with leech Peter Lillywhite with a leech feeding on his neck.
Image: Berlinda Bowler
Source: Berlinda Bowler

Bush Blitz is a three-year biodiversity discovery program supported by the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN) AusPlots.

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.