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The Mid-Winter Extreme-Weather Sore-Back Bioblitz: Pete's highlight of 2020!

Updated: May 17, 2021

I was honoured to be included in a team for the International Biodiversity Challenge 2020, a project designed to get people observing their local biodiversity and uploading it to the online database, iNaturalist. My teammates were some of the heaviest hitters on the Australian iNaturalist scene. These guys are skilled observers of the natural world, able to go out to different environments and name so much of the life that they find. From bugs and beetles, fungi and flowers. Moths, trees, ants and spiders. Of course they’re competent birders too. So, when the start of the week of bioblitzing arrived I really wanted to put in a big effort and see some cool stuff.

A week of observing life outside anyone?

After weeks of blue sky days and mild conditions stimulating some really early flowering in the heathland plants, and early mating and nesting behaviour among the birds in my backyard, the weather goddess tuned the dial to full force coastal winter just in time for the bioblitz. Each day around a 10 degree maximum, with driving rain and southerly blasting winds. Even a decent and rare dusting of snow in the range behind the coast. To make matters worse I had some serious back pain which affected my ability to walk, which was ironic because I had just finished writing material for a self-guided walk to the Victorian Surf coast.

Despite these limitations things started off pretty well, my teammates exploding off the mark with an impressive number and variety of observations, I managed to go out in the evening and take pictures of spiders I had never noticed in the backyard before.

These cool looking orbweavers are waiting for dinner

After a chiropractor appointment and discovering the pain relieving properties of Voltaren, I was able to get going a bit more, with walks through the heathland and trips to my local wetland the next day, and an evening possum prowl at my favourite nocturnal hangout. There I was able to record Grey-headed Flying Foxes, Yellow Bellied Gliders and all the while walking on a pretty pathway of flower blossoms, due to the current prolific flowering of Red Ironbarks and the destructive practices of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and the flying foxes.

The prettiest pathway through the night I've ever encountered

This is called an identification level photograph. The out of focus blurry blobs are in the correct proportions and places to indicate this species is a Yellow-bellied Glider, probably. However, the recording I took of it no one will argue with, perhaps the most vocal of Australia's marsupials that very few people have ever heard. The witch-like cackle, of Petaurus australis

Another ID-level photo, this time of the Grey-headed Flying Fox - (Pteropus poliocephalus) having a meal of Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa) blossoms