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Tasmania’s Central Plateau - Happy Bioblitzin’ New Year

Updated: Feb 2

---by 'Possum' Pete Crowcroft


Planning a mostly off-trail hike through Tassie's mountainous heart, incorporating sections of the Overland Track and Walls of Jerusalem, we were expecting it to be tough. It would be a mistake to underestimate Tasmania’s climate even in summer, so we’d prepared. Or so we thought...


Lake Ayr on a calm morning

Before kids (or maybe that should be before iNaturalist) exploring different areas of the southwest wilderness zone on long hikes was my annual expedition. That was over a decade ago, so it is fair to say that this time I wasn’t exactly in good recent form.  



Despite our precautions, on what was supposed to be an easy night at the caravan park before the hike, the wind caught us by surprise. Going from still and pleasant at bedtime to what felt like gale force around 3am, I’d set the tent up to be a perfect 90 degrees against the wind, in other words, as bad as it could be! 

I spent most of the early hours battening down the hatches and stopping my friends' tent from blowing away too, so sleep deprivation was extremely real for the start of the hike. The first of seven days of course the longest, hardest, and heaviest pack day! 



The group walks past a giant Eucalyptus tasmaniensis

This is the ‘Tassie Test’. She says that if you want to hike here, this is the trial you must go through. Or maybe it was my welcome back after so long. Either way, as you can see it is well worth it.  


Harder walking than it looks! Certainly beautiful though.

In terms of bioblitzin’ the first day included amazing lowland temperate rainforest. I had the phone in hand and that had to do me. Lugging my huge pack which carried the majority of resources needed to support my two young boys, combined with the lack of sleep, meant the good camera remained tucked away with focus instead on one step at a time in front of the other. 

It wasn't possible to walk past everything new and beautiful though. with the lure of adding another species to the iNaturalist list far too strong. Especially incredible orchids and other fascinating flowering flora. 


I managed to sort out my system by the next day, attaching the camera to my pack’s chest strap for quick access. 


Top: Fragrant Purpleberry (Trochocarpa thymifolia), Mountain Pinkberry (Leptecophylla parvifolia), Tasmanian Waratah (Telopea truncata)

Compounding the sleep deprivation we found out on day 3 we were suffering caffeine withdrawal after having accidently packed decaffeinated coffee bags. Friends to the rescue solved that issue, and after recaffeination of the bloodstream and some good nights' sleeping at stunning and isolated wilderness campsites, I started feeling a lot more human as opposed to walking dead zombie. 

Getting up early for photos of endemic Tassie birds like the Yellow Wattlebird and Yellow-throated Honeyeater was a pleasure. Also the beautiful endemic pine species. I was obliged to also take a few scenery images - ‘art’ - which is hard to pass up when surrounded by such landscapes.



A Tasmanian endemic bird, the Yellow-throated Honeyeater

The weather remained perfect for hiking, which was just as well because anything else may have tipped the balance into too difficult territory. 


Tasmanian Xenica (Nesoxenica leprea)

Guitar Plant (Lomatia tinctoria), with pollination taken care of by a Washing Beetle (Phyllotocus rufipennis)

Although we seemed to always land at our Plan ‘C’ camping area, they were perfect backups of what turned out to be much too difficult initial plans seeking the higher alpine territories like Tasmania’s tallest mountain, Mt. Ossa. That region has yet again more incredible and unique flora that will have to wait for the next trip. Hopefully, that won’t be too long, because making Tasmania’s wilderness an annual pilgrimage again is now my life’s mission. 


Metallic Cool-Skink (Carinascincus metallicus)

Over the week thousands of photos were taken, making for plenty of family portraits but all importantly 361 observations of (currently) 210 species. Many of which are endemic Tasmanian plants and animals. Some notable observations are the first images to iNaturalist of a subspecies of butterfly, and all the hard-to-reach high country plants during their flowering season.


Macleay's Swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus)

Bright-eyed Brown (Heteronympha cordace) on Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii)

The bizarre burl-forming fungi growing out of the Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) was a fascinating one too. 


The Beech Orange (Cyttaria gunnii)

I do love how the observations taken along the way map out our journey through this amazing wilderness area. 



What could have been a better way to bring in the new year than with an epic family hike with a ‘little’ bioblitzin' on the side. 


Here are a few more observations from along the way.


Tasmanian Tigersnakes are completely black.
A weevil from tribe Tropiphorini
First living specimen uploaded to iNaturalist of the fly Pelecorhynchus albolineatus
Did I mention the natural beauty?
This harvestman has a few hitchhikers on their back
Foam Lichen - Stereocaulon sp.
Clavaria zollingeri
Possibly Eurychorda complanata
Mountain Milkwort (Comesperma retusum)
Perhaps Tramates versicolor

 

I acknowledge the Palawa people as the first to walk among and respect the biodiversity of Tasmania.


 

Pete Crowcroft (@possumpete) is a co-founder of the GSB and an environmental educator on the Great Ocean Road.



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Stephen Fricker
Stephen Fricker
25. tammik.

No wonder you have more species than me! you go to some amazing places thanks for the share mate!


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