What do you get if you put 60 keen environmentally-minded people together for 24 hours in the Midwest bush? A bioblitz of course! The weekend of the 23/24 September served as the date for the Midwest’s inaugural bioblitz organised by the Moore Catchment Council (MCC), Yarra Yarra Catchment Management Group (YYCMG) and the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC). A bioblitz is a 24 hour event involving rapid collection of ecological data at a particular site which provides a snapshot of the species that occur in that area.
The event attracted around 60 people aged 7 to 70 from all over the region from Perth to Geraldton, and was held at Bunjil Rocks in the Shire of Perenjori. Rachel Walmsley, MCC’s Community Landcare Coordinator said, “It really was a fabulous weekend. We based ourselves at Latham
to take advantage of the free and well-equipped Shire camping facilities and community hall. Participants camped in swags, tents and camper vehicles in the bush camping area adjacent to the oval. We also picked the same date to camp there as 80 members of the 4WD club Trackcare which nearly doubled Latham’s population for the weekend!”
After an introduction from organisers Rachel, Lizzie King (YYCMG) and Jessica Stringemore, and a “Welcome to Country” by Badimia local Ashley Bell and his didgeridoo-playing nephew Angus, bioblitzers made their way out to Bunjil Rocks reserve a few kilometres north. Rachel said, “Participants then split into groups with an ‘eco-guru’ team leader and spent the afternoon exploring and surveying the bush. Gurus on-hand were: Midwest flora expert Jenny Borger, bird enthusiast Phil Lewis, local landcare lover Paulina Wittwer, bat crazy and nest cam specialist Joe Tonga, and all-round eco guru and fauna trapping expert Nic Dunlop.”
Fauna highlights on the first day included seeing a beautiful barn owl and rarely seen Nightjar accidently flushed from their day roosts, and a Western Yellow robin caught in a mist net and brought to the group by Nic so everyone could see up close. The evening’s activities included a night stalk led by Joe Tonga, who became all the children’s favourite leader with his gadgets and gizmos including infrared cameras and UV torches to spot scorpions. Dinner was catered for by a couple of local ladies from the Perenjori P&C who cooked tasty casseroles and curry followed by three different deserts – yum!
Sunday morning started (for some) with a dawn bird walk around camp led by Phil Lewis. BreakfastBBQ bacon and egg rolls followed, then back out to Bunjil Rocks for the final two survey sessions. Highlights included spotting a Spiny Tailed Skink, which is a threatened species, seeing highly venomous Gwardar (Western Brown) snakes with Joe, and Jenny calculating that the flora team had logged around 120 species of plant over the 24 hours. Back at Latham HQ the final debrief, thank yous and lunch occurred before everyone departed for home and a well-earned rest.
Rachel said, “The event concluded just as the heavens opened – thank goodness. Many thanks to everyone who came along and helped make the event a raging success including: the team leaders, caterers, and Shire of Perenjori for allowing us to use their facilities. It was an intense but fun 24 hours of flora surveys, bird spotting, nest spying, animal trapping, making friends, camping in the bush, pond dipping, bat stalking, sharing knowledge, eating, wind sun and a shower or two, plus laughs and good memories. Huge thanks to the sponsors and funders who allowed this event to happen including: Gunduwa Regional Conservation Association, National Landcare Program, Conservation Council, Moora Citrus, Westways Wildflowers, Kochii oil, Moore Park olive oil, Manavi eggs, Spineless Wonder and Earth Stewardship.”