WOW, what a week. After reading this you’ll definitely want to come on the next BOOBOOK Eco-science Expedition……
From the 2nd to the 5th September BOOBOOK undertook its very first Eco-science Expedition with some very special guests in unexplored sections of the upper Dawson River, in Outback Queensland’s Carnarvon Ranges.
While BOOBOOK’s talented staff have been conducting ecological surveys for the past twenty plus years this was our first expedition that we opened up to the public. On this fully catered experience our guests came along to gain knowledge, learn from experts and contribute to Australia’s understanding of its natural history.
We had a great and diverse range of guests, all seeking and gaining different experiences. Guests included budding ecologists, naturalists and photographers, as well as students wanting to improve their skills. With a great spread of ages, all had a common thread and general interest in the great outdoors, adventure and Australia’s diverse wildlife (plants and/or animals).
The group discovered and found so much that it will take a couple of months to fully work through all the findings and prepare a report. However, in the mean time we thought we would share some exciting preliminary findings and outcomes.
- We explored a 4 km stretch of the Dawson River which had not previously been explored by biologists. The terrain was rough in places but included some beautiful sandstone cliff lines, caves and side gorges, providing numerous hiding places for a range of animals.
- With a number of keen eyes, we recorded approximately 50 species of birds, 10 species of reptile, and several species of mammals and frogs. This included several sightings of the elusive Herbert’s Rock-wallaby which has a very patchy occurrence in the Carnarvon Range. We also found evidence of where Glossy Black-Cockatoos had been feeding under Casuarina (she-oak) trees – this bird is a rare and threatened species in Queensland.
- We targeted several invertebrate groups (animals without backbones) including butterflies, dragonflies and land snails and found 15 species of butterfly and at least 6 species of dragonfly. Land snails were represented by at least 10 species, with one of our participants managing to find a ‘bristle snail’ which represents a range extension for the species.
- We found and mapped many significant waterholes, and one spring which had not been previously documented. These habitats provide refuge for plants and animals that depend on water in an otherwise very dry landscape.
- In the short time we had (as we could spend months and months studying this area) we found lots of evidence of the presence of Rakali (water rat) with one being spotted in a water hole unusually during the middle of the day. They are normally only seen at night.
- We were also on the lookout for evidence of the rare and endangered species such as the Northern Quoll. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any this trip, however on the up side this provides a great excuse to go back again.
- About 180 species of plants were recorded along the river. This is quite a large total and included some exciting finds such as a species of wattle which is likely to be the first record for this species from the Carnarvon Range; a new population of a rare species of bottle brush (Melaleuca) and a range of spectacular wildflowers which were photographed including grevilleas, wattles and native peas.
- The weather was superb and to take advantage of this we made sure we factored in some downtime for everyone. It was great to stop and breath in the clean country air, stare at the stars, relax in the hammock and even take a swim and go for a paddle in a canoe in a nearby waterhole. When not out looking for night creatures the crackling campfire provided an amazing atmosphere to share stories and discoveries from the day gone by.
- Along with general exploring our guests also learnt about animal identification and observation techniques, plant collecting and using identification keys and flora survey techniques.
- BOOBOOK Guides were also the cooks and are to be congratulated on the great food they prepared. Everyone ate healthily, with plenty on offer so they were continually fueled for their next adventure.
If after reading this you think you missed out on lots of fun and a great adventure – well you did. However, this is the first of two Eco-science expeditions that BOOBOOK intend on running each year. The next will be in the last week of February 2020, with another towards the end Spring this same year. Mark your calendar and book ahead, as we only take small groups and space is limited. With different areas to explore each time, no two expeditions will be the same – a truly unique experience.