Thursday, September 22, 2011

Field Trip to Smiths Lake, Central New South Wales

Yesterday, I returned from a field trip at Smiths Lake, around 250 kilometres north of Sydney on the Central Coast. Smiths Lake is salt water, and periodically naturally opens to the sea.

View Smiths Lake Field Station in a larger map

The annual field trip is a large component of a second year ecology unit run by Macquarie University, and I was there as the plant science tutor. As well as vegetation pracs, the trip included pracs on bird communities, plant-dwelling invertebrates, benthic diatoms, fish communities and benthic invertebrates. It's the first time I've formally taught in biology, and just loved the experience. Out in the bush, there were plenty of snakes, including a Death adder, Acanthophis sp., one of the most venomous snakes in the world, but we made plenty of noise in the bush to keep them at bay. No students lost, happily.

Pelagica, one of the university's research boats. 

I didn't spend much time on our boat Pelagica, since my pracs were in the bush. But I did get to enjoy a boat trip on the final day.

My passion for terrestrial orchids grows unabated! Isn't this a cutey?

Calochilus paludosus,
Red Beardy ground orchid

A frequent visitor to the field station, a young male
Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Macropus giganteus.
This fellow was on his own, so has probably been forced out from his mob by the dominant male, and is wandering about looking for his own mob to start.

Lomandra confertifolia ssp. rubiginosa, a delicate sedge. 

An Australian Pelican, Pelicanus conspicillatus
My tent was close to this spot. Pelicans were gliding past my tent at dusk. There are hundreds of them on the lake, and given the massive numbers of fish we saw, it's hardly surprising. It's a fish smorgasbord.

A beautiful place, and a fabulous field trip! Such diversity of species. Bliss.


Adrian Bedford said...

Terrestrial orchids, eh? Well, you know exactly what my tiny mind leapt to by way of a joke here, don't you? If you guessed "extra-terrestrial orchids would be even cooler", you win a cookie! :)

Seriously, it looks like a wonderful trip, and I'm delighted you had a great time actually teaching! :) Love all the pelicans, too. When we go to Mandurah, the pelicans are some of my favourite things to see. Majestic birds, even if they do steal your lunch if you're not careful.

Bjørn Østman said...

I haven't been to Australia (or the southern hemisphere), but look forward to the day. Could do without the snakes, though...

Margaret said...

Adrian, that's exactly what Martien said. Like minds. I didn't see any pelicans stealing food, but it seems the kookaburras and magpies are the ones to watch there.

Bjørn, snakes really aren't a problem if you're sensible. I think their beauty far outweighs any risk. You just need to watch where you're walking. Hope you do come to Australia--I'll be delighted to take you to some of my favourite bushland!