It's been a while since I posted in the blog, but I hope to get back to it more. I'm creating a series of videos on my Youtube channel which should hopefully provide some insight into the editing process to help you all with your own edits.
One of the most important things that photographers can do is keyword their photos in a program like Adobe Lightroom. If you take thousands of photos, as I do, finding one of your photos can be a challenge. By keywording, you can simply search for the subject you're interested in and all of your photos with the associated tags will pop up. This also is important for selling photos on stock agencies! If someone else is searching from Eastern Gray Tree Frog, you want to be sure that your photo of an Eastern Gray Tree Frog pops up in their search results.
I won't repeat what I put in the video as I'll post it below so that you can watch it yourself. But in my video, I say that you can download my keyword list from my website. So if you are looking for that list, you can click on the link below to download it for your own use. Enjoy!
It has been very long since I last updated and that is in part because there hasn't been much going on since my last update. Well, up until the beginning of April that is. So let me briefly get you up to date for the time between the last update and the beginning of April.
I went back up to Kosciuszko National Park to aid in another round of the corroboree frog clay model study. My "official" role was to be a photographer. I was to set up camera traps with clay models and see if we could capture predators on camera. I, also, was to use a full spectrum DSLR camera (can see into visible spectrum and UV - normal cameras can't do that and you need a special conversion done to the camera) to take pictures of attacked and unattacked models so that we can do visual modeling to see if there was any difference between conspicuousness of unattacked and attacked models. I was keen to try this method out as, while getting the equipment to do it costs several thousand dollars, that is far cheaper than a spectrometer which is on the scale of $10K-$20K depending on the model you get. Long term, when I have my own lab, this camera might be a viable option for me. Despite being the photographer, I was roped into placing models, which I had reservations for because the method had been changed from the last excursion to do grids rather than transects. In theory, either method is acceptable and is represented in the literature. In practice, however, grids, in my opinion, are tedious and cost more in time for little benefit for this experiment. I expressed these concerns, but it was decided to do grids anyway. So be it, I'm not the lead on this project. Without going into too much detail, I had the worst field day in recent memory (placing grids in 45F, 30+mph winds, hail, and sleet) and we had a low attack rate on our models. At the moment, I don't know what, if any, the results are. But I did get camera traps out and photos of models. All in all, there were headaches and benefits to be had.
And that, more or less, was this big event that happened since my last post. I did get to explore a little more around Sydney and went to the Blue Mountains National Park and Royal National Park, but it's been quiet since. Now onto the meat of this post, and this will be long as I'm covering two weeks of going through Victoria, so if you need to use the bathroom, I would recommend going now. The weather is finally starting to turn for the better for finding my frogs. The frogs in the genus Pseudophryne are largely fall breeders that wait for the autumn rains to trigger breeding choruses. Those were supposed to start in mid March but thanks to El Niño, they were pushed back a few weeks and were rather pathetic. I had planned my first trip into the field on April 1 to Victoria, and I was admittedly worried that I was going to be wasting time and energy when the frogs weren't calling. I obsessively checked forecasts for Victoria, hoping to see rain, but only saw sun with one low chance of rain in the ten day forecast. I decided to go and not postpone after talking to a friend who was confident that I should have no problem finding frogs despite the rain. I decided to start my 5892km trip in eastern Victoria
on the outskirts of Croajingolong National Park where I had done my clay model study last austral winter. I was quite nervous about my ability to find these frogs because they are largely fossorial, and I've never found one on my own before (I have been shown a spot where some occur, and found one there, but I haven't found my own locations). I had recordings of their calls and a general idea of where to look, but beyond that, I was on my own. After 8 hours of driving, I got to Cann River and decided, rather than rest, to start looking and see how difficult my research was going to be. Within 20 minutes of my driving down one of my target roads, I found a chorus. And with a little luck, I caught my first P. dendyi. What a relief! I should note at this point that these frogs are a real pain to find. They are easy to locate by their calls, but finding the frogs is a different matter entirely. Like I said, they're fossorial. The males construct little bowls just under the leaf litter and call in them. This helps amplify the sound. It also makes it difficult to tell where they are calling from as it, at times, causes them to throw their voices, as it were. I found the best technique for finding them is triangulation. Figure out where you think they're calling from in one direction, then move to the side and get a better idea. Doing this seemed to be pretty successful. The part I really hate about my research is that I have to euthanize the frogs I collect. I want to get information on the toxins, the stomach contents, and genetics, and simply, to do so, I have to euthanize the frogs. There is no way around it. Making matters worse is that the males of these frogs guard eggs, so if I take a male, the eggs lose their protector. If I take a female, this time of year, she is filled with eggs. It's a no win. My collection, thus, has been one individual per chorus. Generally, that individual is a male and in that case, I do my best to collect males that are not guarding eggs.
I ended up finding 6 P. dendyi without too much difficulty, thankfully. I decided only to collect ~6 individual per location (which were roughly 100km apart) in an effort to get broad sampling and not get biased by one area. I also collected 2 Crinia signifera as part of a project for one of my committee members in Mississippi. I had to process these animals shortly after collection in an effort to halt digestion. I ended up collecting two additional P. dendyi (a male and a female) to take pretty photos of the following morning as well as to get scientific photos (with the aforementioned DSLR). Those two were released after their star treatment. And then I was off to the next location 100km away near Lakes Entrance. There, I should be able to find both P. dendyi and
P. semimarmorata. I spent the day scouting possible roads to drive along, listening for calls, and then waited for dark when I would go out to collect frogs. Like the night previous, I found it easy to find frogs, but this time I found only P. semimarmorata (and Crinia, but they're ubiquitous). Pseudophryne semimarmorata are weird for the genus because they are pretty dull dorsally (common in many species in the genus), but on their bellies, they have the typical black and white reticulations found throughout the genus and bright red arms, legs, and chins (only visible ventrally), the latter trait being unique to this species. And man is it bright! It perplexes me as to why a frog that lives underground would need such bright coloring and have it only on their bellies. That is a question I really want to answer but will probably have to be sought after my PhD. And the same deal as the night previous where I collected two animals for the star treatment and processed the rest. At this point, I was feeling pretty confident that all of my concerns about wasted time were not necessary, but whenever you start getting overconfident, life has a way of putting you in your place. The next spot was near Toongabbie, a spot where P. dendyi occur and they are very yellow. I wanted to find these frogs last time but had no success. I was reasonably confident that that would not be the case this time around because of my success the previous two nights. Unfortunately, this area was significantly drier than the other places and after driving over 100km listening for frogs (on roads I'm sure the car rental company would have issue with), I didn't hear a single frog calling. It wasn't until I got to my campsite that was on the edge of a dried swamp that I heard a few feeble calls from the swamp. At this point, it was about 48F and the frogs were not excited about that. The single noted calls might be spaced minutes apart which made triangulation frustratingly difficult. In the end, the frogs were in sphagnum mounds, but I couldn't find a single frog. I was bound to have some nights where I wouldn't get my quota, I was just disappointed that it happened with Toongabbie. Again.
When I choose my sites, I had the general idea that they should be approximately 100km apart. I should be able to collect 5 or so frogs from each spot for each species that occurs there and be able to get my quota allowed by my permit. After Toongabbie, I was a little worried that the trend of dry areas would continue and my sampling would not be as thorough as I would have hoped. Indeed, after I left Toongabbie, I went to Geelong where, on quick examination, I realized that it was like pre-desert and far too dry for frogs. Driving to the one reserve I hoped to find frogs, I actually saw dust clouds pop up. Rather than waste a day, I decided to keep going and start on the Great Ocean Road which goes from Geelong along the coast to Warrnambool and is one of the spots recommended to go as a tourist to really see the landscape of Victoria. I went half way to get to the Otways which are the mountains on this jut of land. As before, I went out at sunset and
tried to find frogs. Unfortunately, as before, I didn't find any. It was just too dry. I went to two waterfalls during the day in hopes of doing some long exposure photography. The waterfalls, for all intents and purposes, were completely dry. That night, however, I got some much needed rain, which did get other frogs calling, but not the species I was looking for. While the range maps do indicate that the frogs should be in the Otways, public records show a lack of records in the area, so it's possible that there aren't Pseudophryne there, wet or dry. So onto the next spot: just east of Portland.
This allowed me to complete the drive on the Great Ocean Road and see the rest of the southern coast. And is it magnificent! Most of the coast is comprised of sheer limestone cliffs that rise 100 feet above the ocean. It's also known as the Shipwreck Coast because so many wrecks happened in the settlement period and gold rush of Australia. The sea has carved this coast into exquisite beauty that
photos really cannot do justice. The other reason to take the Great Ocean Road was to get my koala. I did not see a wild koala the last time I was in Australia, and every time I mentioned it, people would say that they're everywhere in Victoria, and specifically, on the Great Ocean Road. And that proved true when I saw a few tourists on the side of the road taking a picture of something. I quickly stopped and saw a koala happily munching on some eucalyptus. That was not the only one I saw. I ended up seeing half a dozen more along the road as I drove to Portland. This next area was supposed to be on the edge of a good concentration of Pseudophryne semimarmorata, so I was a bit more hopeful that I wouldn't lose out of another day's sampling. Unfortunately, despite the rain of the night before, the frogs were not calling, so another shot day. The following day, I moved a little further west
to Dartmoor, which should be right in the center of this distribution. If the frogs were here, I should find them. It look a while and it was much harder than eastern Victoria, but I did finally find frogs here. All Pseudophryne semimarmorata and interestingly, they looked somewhat different from the ones I found at Lakes Entrance. The red patches of the LE frogs where instead more yellowish-orange in these western frogs. It makes me curious if there will be any differences in toxin content between the populations. I'm glad I was able to get such distance populations because if there are any differences, I'm more likely to find the in the far edges. At this point in my trip, I had to make some decisions. It is obviously much drier than I was expecting and finding frogs far more difficult west of Melbourne. The second half of the trip was planned to be a northern loop in hopes of getting some high elevation frogs. With it so dry and sampling so sparse, I decided that I would probably be better to concentrate my sampling where I know there are frogs and that conditions are favorable rather than gamble for good conditions. I would try a couple more northerly populations, but otherwise head back south and east to increase my sampling there. So the plan now was to go to the Grampians followed by Bendigo, and then head to Toongabbie and work backwards from there sampling in between where I had already sampled.
When I left the following morning, I decided, since I was on the border, to go into South Australia and visit Tantanoola Caves. This served two purposes. First, assuming the rest of my plans work out, I should have hit every Australian state on this trip. Send, I needed some time to kill and I haven't been to any caves while here. I'm glad I stopped at what essentially appeared like a tourist trap pit spot on the side of the road. It may be that, but the caves, which were small, were pretty magnificent. They were easily the most decorated caves I've been in. Unfortunately, they were tourist-ified I that they were made wheelchair accessible and had sidewalks throughout the cave. They also had lighting thorough the cave, which at first I didn't care for, but it did help with dramatic lighting for photos. For a spot that I decided to go on a whim, it turned out to be a pretty cool stop. And then I was off to the Grampians. I decided to stay at the Rockland Reservior which sounded like there should be water, and thus, frogs, there. When I got there, however, it was bone dry. The campsite I had chosen was right next to the reservoir and had a boat launch. When I went to the boat launch, however, I didn't see any water for as far as the eye could see. This wasn't going to work, so I decided to leave and try a spot on the southern part of the Grampians mountains and then access the eastern side which, looking at satellite imagery, looked far more promising. Unfortunately, it too was far too dry for frogs.
The following morning, I wanted to see some of the Grampians which are a rather curious feature on the landscape. They are a mountain chain that popped up in the middle of no where. They also happen to be one of Victoria's most popular national parks. And where there are mountains, there are waterfalls, and I was aching to do some waterfall photography. I got up quite early in an effort to avoid the weekend crowd and because I had a long drive to Bendigo later in the day. If I was to see this park, I'd need several hours to do so. I started out at Silverband Falls which, after a 5 minute walk which brought me to a completely dry stream bed, I turned around without even going to the falls, knowing that they, too, would be dry. My second shot was MacKenzie Falls which were advertised as being a year-round waterfall. It is also one of the most popular spots in the Grampians. But I got there largely before the crowd and could take my time photographing the falls. There maybe was not as much water flowing over the falls as in other times during the year, but I actually like that because you can better see the features of the falls rather than a complete curtain of water. Still with time, I decided to continue down along the river to a second fall, Fish Falls. This waterfall was much prettier and more photogenic. I spent quite a bit of time photographing the different levels of these falls before calling it and heading back to my car and then onto Bendigo.
I wanted to check out around Bendigo because supposedly high yellow Pseudophryne bibronii can be found around there. Like with the Toongabbie frogs, I really wanted to get these high yellow frogs because they are so different from the rest of the range. However, when I got to my campsite, it became blatantly apparent that I was unlikely to find my quarry. Bendigo, too, was very dry. I held onto hope that the recent rains left some moisture, but in digging through some very deep leaf litter, it was completely dry throughout. And as I would have thought, when I went out at night, I didn't hear any frogs calling, even though the habitat looked suitable. Another bust. But hopefully, from here on out, my successes will increase. Starting with Toongabbie the following day. Third time's a charm, right?
It was a long drive to go from Bendigo to Toongabbie but I decided to camp in the same spot that I did before because I heard frogs calling in the dry swamp adjacent to the campsite but I was unable to find them last time. I also wanted to scout areas where I may find the infamous Toongabbie frog. After doing that, as the sun went down, I started in the swamp. Persistence netted me two Pseudophryne semimarmorata which was great (wasn't sure what was calling there - could have been either P. semimarmorata or P. dendyi), but not my target. I headed to the mountains closer to Toongabbie. I drove for perhaps 5 kilometers without hearing a thing and was ready to call the road a bust when I heard a loud chorus of Geocrinia victoriana calling. Generally, where these call, so do Pseudophryne, so I got out of the car to investigate. Initially, I only heard G. victoriana but then I heard the distinctive, single note of a Pseudophryne. This was the moment of truth as this was most likely to be the Toongabbie frog. And after a great deal of searching, I found the culprit which was the frog I was hoping for! As I collected the first one, two more started calling, so I found them as well. And the distinction between the three frogs was quite striking. They had more yellow than the P. dendyi further east, but they were rather different from one another. When I drove further up the road, buoyed by my success, I ended up finding 4 more, also somewhat variable. This trait is particularly exciting for me as a color evolutionary biologist.
The following day brought me to Cape Conran which was supposedly the furthest east P. semimarmorata occurs. This would be particularly good to sample because then, I'd have samples from two extremes of this species. Unfortunately, I was not as successful as I was hoping (I should also be able to find P. dendyi in this area). After a bit of work and a lot of driving, I ended up finding 4 P. semimarmorata which was better than nothing.
I must admit that the lackluster success of the previous night did not give me great confidence as I headed further east, basically where I started this whole trip. I did have success the first night and my next site was only 50km away from there up in the mountains a bit, but the night previous left me worried because I saw plenty of spots where frogs should be calling, but didn't hear any frogs. Was it going to be the same for this mountain area? On the plus side, the campground I decided to stay at was beautiful and secluded right next to the Ada River
(a stream, really) and had tons of animal life around it. My hopes for a successful night came when I heard the distinctive one note call right in front of the campground latrine. I didn't know what to expect here because I was at higher elevation than the first night, and at higher elevations, P. dendyi tend to have greater amounts of yellow. When I uncovered the calling male, however, it looked just like the lower elevation individuals. Interesting, nonetheless. The night ended up being my most successful, collecting 9 P. dendyi in a couple hours. I needed a good night like this one. And after that, I headed back to Sydney for a brief respite before heading onto Queensland!
Well, it’s that time of the week for another update. Now that I am at a computer I can probably keep a more consistent schedule of updates, so let’s begin with Tasmania!
Despite being not too far from the mainland, I feel like visiting Tasmania has the same sort of feel as non-Floridians visiting Florida. It’s there, it’s not that expensive to visit, but it’s really just a holiday location for many people. Tasmania seems like that for Australians. I went to Tasmania for the first time a week and a half ago first to participate in the Australian Society of Herpetologists’ (ASH) annual meeting and after that, I had a few days to check out the state. Unlike Florida, Tasmania has no Disney World or Universal Studios or anything like that, but is quite well known for being mountainous and green (unlike much of the rest of Australia). Tasmania harbors Australia’s only temperate rainforest and, I think with the possible exception of Brazil, that makes Australia the only country to have both tropical and temperate rainforests.
The ASH meeting was a fun time. It is really hard to describe the atmosphere at ASH, but it’s very relaxed and jovial. There were about 150 participants, so it was one of the smaller meetings I’ve attended, but it was not nearly as intimidating. Herpetologists are a unique breed regardless of their nationality, it would seem, and that lent an air of comfortability for me presenting my research there. I presented my research on Dendrobates tinctorius that I’ve been working on for the last three years. I am excited about the results of this research, so it was fun to present my findings. And as is always my fear in presenting research, I was worried that my peers would reject the conclusions, but happily, people seemed to accept the conclusions I drew. Anyone who knows me, knows that I can get exceptionally obsessive about visual media, so when I give powerpoint presentations, I want to make full use of the program. I generally believe that the presentation is wasted if you do not have a compelling visual presentation and sadly, many scientists fall into this. I spent a great deal of time making and practicing the presentation, and I’m quite pleased to see that that effort is recognized. I was awarded runner-up for best PhD presentation, which earned me a copy of the Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia by Harold Cogger. This is a beast of a book that is worth around $120 and is quite comprehensive. I do actually have a copy, but I left it in the States. And in an effort to make it more personal, I basically turned it into a yearbook and got signatures of a bunch of people on the front page of the book, including a number of the bigwigs at the conference. I was also pleasantly surprised when I spoke to one of the judges of the presentations who said it really was back and forth between me and the first place winner. In addition to meeting everyone including a number of important contacts, this really capped off a great meeting.
After the meeting, I had plans to rent a car and then drive around Tasmania for four days. I had the goal of trying to find one of the species of frogs I’m working on, seeing an echidna, seeing a wombat, and seeing a Tasmanian Devil. When I went to the airport to rent a car, most of the cars were already rented out and those that were left were big vehicles. And it turns out that I wasn’t alone in this position. There was another guy from the conference who didn’t reserve a car ahead of time and was potentially looking at being stranded at the airport because he couldn’t rent a car. Since he was flying out of Hobart and I was going to head to Hobart to see some friends, I said I could take him and we could split costs. The only problem for him was that I was planning on camping and he didn’t have any gear to camp. It ended up working out that he slept in the car, but I think he probably would have preferred to stay in some hotels. But it was free to camp, so beggars can’t be choosers, and ultimately I think he enjoyed the whirlwind tour.
We started out by heading to the Bay of Fire on the northeast coast of Tasmania. I was hoping that this wasn’t ominous because Tasmania is dealing with a drought and a number of fires (which I believe are concentrated out west). I had chosen this spot because there was decent number of Pseudophryne semimarmorata found around this area, and that is the target species I wanted to find. Unfortunately, in getting there, I discovered that despite some rains in the last few weeks, the drought was not over and creeks that would be excellent for the frogs were bone dry. So that area ended up being a bust, although it was in the middle of nowhere, which was nice and scenic.
The following morning, we got up early and headed south with the goal of ending the night at Hartz Mountains National Park with is southwest of Hobart and about a 4-hour drive from where we currently were. We ended up driving down the eastern coast and stopped for a couple hours at Freycinet National Park. Blair had suggested stopping there to see Wineglass Bay which I had not heard about, but apparently is one of the big sights to see in Tasmania. It was a good way to break up the drive, so we spent a few hours there and the view was as advertised. And it was also well advertised as we were not the only ones there. In fact, we accidentally ran into another group from ASH as we were making our way back to the car. And then we were off to Hartz Mountains. Shortly after leaving Freycinet, I saw one
of my top targets on the side of the road. An echidna! I turned around and found that it wasn’t hurt or
anything (there is a ridiculous amount of wildlife in Tasmania, so a ton of roadkill, to the point that there are dusk-to-dawn speed limited to help cut down on that). By the time we got to close to the animal, it wasn’t having anything of us, and started burrowing down into the dirt. It basically burrowed down enough so that its spikes were at level with the ground and there was very little chance of getting at the animal without getting stabbed. Despite my prodding, it wouldn’t come up, but it was still a very cool animal to see and one I’ve wanted to see for a long time. First wild monotreme!
Hartz Mountains is the furthest south I’ve ever been. It’s about as far south as Manistee, Michigan (a place I spent many childhood summers) is north. But there isn’t much more south before you hit Antarctica, so that was quite cool. Hartz Mountains is also a temperate rainforest and quite reminiscent to the cloud forests I’ve been in in Central America. Despite getting a misting while we were there, it was still evident that it was drier than normal. Everything was covered in moss, but the moss was pretty dry. We had come to Hartz Mountains to try to find Crinia nimba, which is a relatively recently described species of frog endemic to southern Tasmania. We had also hoped to find a number of the Snow Skinks in the genus Niveoscincus. These are arguably the coldest lizards in the world with individuals being found on snow. There are six species endemic to Tasmania, and all of them can be found at Hartz Mountains. We arrived in the late afternoon, so we decided to head up to the top to scope out the area for some possible night road cruising. We were halted because someone needed some help because their friend skidded out on the road up to the park and crashed into a tree. When we got to the car, we realized that there wasn’t much we could do and the people would have to call a tow truck. Needless to say, I was quite careful about driving on the gravel roads after that as I didn’t want to repeat it. After we got up to the top, we went through an alpine bog area which seemed perfect for these frogs. And when we got up there, a cloud was moving through, so there was moisture for the frogs. It all seemed promising. When we went up there after dark, it was raining (misting) and chilly. Despite this, we heard a number of Crinia signifera calling. We cruised around the area to find the frogs, but we didn’t hear any calling, and given that these frogs are brown and cryptic, there is little chance of walking up on one, so finding that frog was a bust. The following morning, we went up to hike around before having to head to Hobart to drop Blair off and for me to meet up with my friends. We didn’t hear any frogs calling in the morning, but on our hike up to Osborn Lake, we did see a number of endemic Green Rosellas and on the way back from the lake, the sun had warmed the boardwalk enough to get the skinks to come out and bask, so we found one of the snow skinks! And then onto Hobart!
Hobart ended up being a pretty quick stop because I needed to make the ferry for Maria Island (pronounced Mariah) and there were only two a day. So I had lunch with my friends before heading off to catch a ferry. Maria Island National Park is a really near park. You know all of those stories about the Australia being a penal colony? Well, Maria Island was one of the spots that criminals were sent. So around the port of Darlington, there are ruins and historical buildings relating to the penitentiary that was once in the island. The main claim to fame, now, for Maria Island, is that it’s one of the spots to somewhat reliable see Tasmanian Devils. Tasmanian Devils are being wiped out throughout Tasmania because of a very unique facial cancer that is actually transmissible. Devils will contract the disease when they bite one another. And given that biting one another is the main way these animals communicate with one another spells problems for the species. Fortunately, all of the devils on Maria Island are cancer free. And they’re somewhat habituated to people, so the chances of seeing one is pretty good.
Maria Island is also interesting in that you can either stay in one of the old penitentiary buildings or camp, and you need to bring all food you need for your trip. There are two camp sites, either in Darlington or 11km away at the other side of the island. Given that the best chances of seeing devils is in Darlington, I stayed there (I also did not relish the idea of hiking 11km with all of my camera AND camping gear). To waste some time before dusk when devils would be active, I decided to walk to the Painted Cliffs and photograph them at sunset. Along the way, I was able to knock off another one of my target species: wombat. There were wombats everywhere, just grazing on the grass with very little concern for who was around. And why would they? There, effectively, are no predators on the island that can threaten them and nor are there vehicles that may hit them. In this walk, I also saw a number of endemic Tasmanian birds that I didn’t realize were endemic. Probably the best one was a Forty-Spotted Pardalote since it’s an endangered species. There are 12 endemic Tasmanian birds, and I think I saw 5 or 6 on this walk. After getting my photo of the cliffs, I headed back and on the way saw more wombats, and by this time, the kangaroos, wallabies, and pademelons had come out, so it was the right
time for devils. I waited for a while and walked around trying to find a devil or spotlight one, but with no luck. I decided to lay down in my tent and wait for a commotion in the camp since surely there would be
a commotion if a devil came through, right? Well, as it turns out, a devil walked right past my tent while I was in it, and I heard a single “oh look, a devil.” By the time I got out of my tent, it was gone. No devils that nice, so I called it a relatively early night figuring I might see them early in the morning. Throughout the night, I was rustled out of sleep by the screams of the devils that were in camp, apparently. But the following morning I was awarded a quick glimpse of a devil. Not nearly as satisfying a view as I would have liked, but I finally got my devil!
That morning, before the afternoon ferry back to the mainland, I decided to walk up to Bishop and Clerk which is one of the highest peaks on the island at 540m high (they advertise 620m, but my GPS begs to differ). The hike was advertised as 11km roundtrip, which would take 3-5 hours, which was great timing before having to head to the ferry. The hike was more like 13km (those 2 extra kilometers matter when you’re carrying a lot of camera gear on your back), and I think it took me about 5 hours to do. Mostly because I was taking my time. Unfortunately, the news that there was a drought in Tasmania apparently hadn’t made it to Maria Island, and about half way up, it started sprinkling. When I got to some rock scree that I had to walk through (and was exposed) it decided to pick up to a bit more than a sprinkle. Not a downpour by any means, but 10 minutes of walking in it and you’d be pretty wet. The only plus to it all was that there wasn’t much in the way of wind, otherwise it would have been pretty miserable. Once I got to the top, I got my photos and rushed the kilometer over rock scree to get back into the forest and some refuge for the rain. As if on cue, the rain let up shortly after I got into the forest. And then I was back and ready to hop on the ferry and head back towards Launceston.
I had one more night in Tasmania before flying back to Sydney, and on the recommendation of my Hobart friends, I stayed the night in Nawarntapu National Park, which is not far from Launceston. This is a coastal park, so I was hoping to see some birdlife, but it also had lots of low-usage roads which are perfect for road cruising. While waiting for the sun to go down, I set up camp which I shared with a Kookaburra who seemed completely uninterested in my being there, but he did keep laughing at me. Once the sun went down, I heard some hooting in my camp, which I thought could have been a frog call, and after trying to triangulate where on the ground this frog was, I scared (we were both scared) a Tawny Frogmouth from its perch. It turns out that the frogmouth was the one hooting, and he too was relatively unconcerned about me, so I was able to get some photos of it. I had seen a frogmouth
last year in Newcastle, but didn’t have my camera on me. They are very cool birds, but can be difficult to find because they sit perfectly still and seem like a broken branch. And then it was time for road cruising. After an hour of road cruising, though, I only saw some pademelons, possums, and a single Eastern Banjo Frog that was recently hit. Not quite as successful as I was hoping. I wasted some time the following morning by hiking on a couple of trails and walking along the beach to see some of the early morning birds, and then it was time to head back to the airport and fly back to Sydney.
And that’s the Tasmanian adventure! A lot packed into a week! Unfortunately, these next few weeks are likely to be somewhat boring as I’ll be in Sydney filling out paperwork to prepare for the field season which probably will start sometime in mid-March. As a result, the next couple blog posts will probably be rather short and boring, but we’ll see. Who knows what opportunities might pop up!