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.