Monday, 23 September 2013

Fire!!

Last night Buck and I headed out to the bushland north of Mareeba for some light-trapping and nocturnal photography. We had just settled down for a beer after setting up the light sheets when a vehicle came down the road and stopped about 300 m away. Shortly thereafter we discovered that the driver had set a fire. This is not unusual in this part of the country where grazers and landowners "control burn" annually or sometimes more than once a year. Reasons for this practice are a mystery to biologists because in this locality no cattle are grazed so there is really no need to burn. The rainy season is just a month or so away, so why burn?

Burning opens up the countryside but it kills all sorts of wildlife and plants. All seedling trees and shrubs are killed and nesting birds and small lizards and insects get consumed by the flames.

Photo: B Richardson
As the fire grew, we thought it best to leave even though it was across the road and separated by several meters of sandy soft shoulders. We were certain that the fellow who had lit the fire was not aware of our presence. If he had been, then we are sure he would have told us--we hope!

We moved to Grievson d, near Koah, a habitat replete with interesting plants and a nice fauna. It is seldom burned and this is reflected in the diversity of native plants and the comparatively small number of introduced weeds.
 Photo: B. Richardson
Northern Forest Grass Trees, Xanthorrhoea johnsonii are common in this locality and seem to harbour a wide variety of insects.
 Colourful caterpillar and a rather plain caterpillar on Grass Tree leaf
 Damselfly sleeping on Grass Tree leaf
We have seen this little pentatomid bug at Grievson Rd before.
 This undescribed species of the cricket genus Aphoniodes reduces its size by stretching out on a Grass Tree Leaf when it is disturbed.

 This morabine grasshopper is associated with Xanthorrhoea. It feeds on the leaves and probably deposits its eggs in the detritus that accumulates in the leaf axils.
 The Pandanus Cockroach, Megamareta phaneropyga, is usually found in pandanus stands. Its distribution extends beyond pandanus and it occurs on other plants such as Xanthorrhoea.
Tiny hylid frogs spend the days deep in the axils and in the brown skirts of dead leaves at the base of large Grass Trees. It is extremely dry in this habitat at this time of the year but after dark there is a considerable dewdrop that serves to keep these small predators lubricated.
Photo: B Richardson
Bushman's Clothes Pegs, Grevillea glauca is an outstanding shrub that is attractive to a wide variety of insects and nectar-feeding birds.

A Golden Orb-weaving spider, Nephila pilipes, has spun her web in the midst of the Grass Trees and shrubs.

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