Come spring temperatures start to skyrocket. Usually, this brings the wet season, with the springs country being characterised by blazing mornings but a refreshing shower to bring the temperature down and fill up the surrounding clay pans with water. The wet season often brings great opportunities to ‘move house’ and disperse around the landscape because intervening habitats between springs which are usually bone dry and scorching become extensive lakes and water courses that can be navigated to a new spring.
This November however was a SCORCHER. Average temperatures of 45 in the shade, all the springs have shrunk to at least a third of their winter size. This creates testing times for all the aquatic organisms. A huge number of animals have died from being caught in areas of the spring that dry up or get beyond their physiological limits in the day.
This trip also saw the beginning of my experimental phase with some interesting data coming up. Unlike South Australian species of snails, the Queensland springs snails are far less salt tolerant. There seem to be different strategies to deal with the springs environment – some are hyper tolerant and range widely others are super sensitive and have to make sure they stay somewhere safe. All the types that speciated from the Hydrobidae inhabitants of the spring are far less tolerant to extreme conditions, which may explain why they are restricted to only the permanent and deeper parts of the spring. In contrast however, one species is so resilient it can survive 24h out of water and temperatures up to 50C!
Lots of the grasses were in full glory, flowering and setting seed. Just stunning.
My ‘microhabitat’ monitoring stations. This one is nestled nice and close to the vent in some shady grasses so anyone living here was lucky at this time of year.
There were a lot of Woodswallows around this trip. Many of the birds were hot and sheltering so were easy to find and photograph.
The old kitchen is about to get a new lease on life.
Many many Bustards roaming around, hunting all the locusts that had moved in.
The Brolgas too were centring their life around the springs and the water, coming out onto the planes to feed in the late afternoon.
Edgbaston isn’t only about the springs, the uplands hold many secrets and amazing sights few spend the time to go and see. Cujo took us on a little adventure to some of his recent discoveries – crystalline rocks, fossilised clam filled creek beds and sheltered gullys nestled into the hill line.
Every day all the animals were sheltering from the sweltering heat.
Everyday there were also whirlwinds all over the place. Cujo tells us they always happen when a dry spell like we have now precedes the wet season. Some crazy weather business.
I often get Caddisflies in my samples but this is a new one. They are a small bug (you can see his little legs and head poking out the bottom end of the tube) that build these elaborate tubes out of what they find around them. At Edgbaston, the most common one I see builds its tube out of sand – all the grains perfectly aligned and glued into a little tube. Others utilise old rhizomes of grasses, hollowing them out and crawling around in them. These guys use the same tactic as the sand tubes, but use small pieces of vegetation.
This simple photo epitomises the springs country to me. Spinifex and gnarled old tea trees.
The creek lines on the north of the property are a beautiful reprise from the heat. Karlee and I went searching for signs of Koalas that have been reported to live on this creek line.
You always see spiders around the scalds of the springs at night but during the day they hide out in these perfectly disguised burrows. Luckily we caught this guy before he had gone out for the night.
The Belostomatidae are commonly referred to as TOE BITERS! Look at those front grasping limbs. I like to think of these guys at the mantis of the water – they are voracious predators and will even feed on small vertebrates. Their bite is thought to be one of the most painful inflicted by an insect.
The dragon and damsel flies were out in full force as the months warmed. Such beautiful specimens. Although their dispersal capabilities are amongst the best of the springs fauna, there are also potentially numerous endemic dragonflies and damsel flies in springs across Australia, and maybe even at Edgbaston too!
There are still springs on Edgbaston I haven’t visited yet, even some of the easier ones to access. This is NW11. I’m sampling a smaller one of the group just down the way, but this was my first time visiting this big reedy number.
Whilst there’s been some rain in the region, Edgbaston is bone dry. This has huge effects on the springs as they have almost all retracted to a quarter of the size they were in our winter sampling. This storm rolled in to southern Barcaldine and set the property of Leichardt ablaze!
A long hard fortnight of work deserves a few sunset beers with the feet up.