A clear, blue-sky day was followed by a clear, still night ideal for spotlighting. We traveled to Lightning Ridge Tk, fourteen of us in six cars, to see what lives in this part of the forest – due for a planned burn next season.
On a previous day-time visit we saw this forest of Narrow-leaf Peppermint, Victorian Blue Gums, Messmate Stringybarks and Manna Gums – and still a few large trees, particularly along the Sandy Creek. Much of this area was logged about 15 years ago and the signs are obvious: large open areas that have failed to regenerate, 40 m high skeletons of once-great trees, killed by the fires lit in the logged coup to regenerate the forest – but we know how that can go amiss. The maps show the location of last night’s walk in relation to the proposed Barjarg Rd ‘fuel reduction burn’ and the recent logging history (in immediate vicinity) – click on the images to enlarge.
The next fire will not only kill more of the grand, old trees, but also consume the fallen trees that are a subtle, yet vital forest resource. Large, rotting, fallen trees are not just obstacles to passage, but hotspots of nutrient availability, food for insectivores, dens for Quolls, shelter for the ferns and mosses that keep the forest moist even on hot summer days – they are important for forest health. Losing these fallen trees to planned burns is one way that the forest becomes more prone to drying out and more likely to carry subsequent fires. And this is recognized in the Victorian Government’s Flora & Fauna Guaranteed Act; though fire planning appears to take little notice of this fact.
We walked under a very bright half-moon, possibly too bright in the early evening. Numbers were low, but we did record a number of arboreal (tree dwelling) mammals: Greater Glider, Koala, Common Ringtail Possum, Mountain Brushtail Possum, Sugar Glider. Not surprisingly, the campfire was a strong attraction before and after the walk! We’ll do this again sometime soon.