Long Range Excursion: Goongarrie 7-17 August 2005

On Sunday afternoon 7 August, 22 people gathered at the Goongarrie homestead after travelling up from Perth and settling themselves into the accommodation or – for two groups – their tents. The Goongarrie Pastoral Lease was purchased by CALM in 1994 and now, combined with Goongarrie National Park (established in 1978) and the Crown land in between, forms a significant conservation reserve of over 75,000 hectares in the eastern Goldfields across a transition zone between the mallee and the mulga vegetation zones. It is approximately 100 kms north of Kalgoorlie and extends across both sides of the Goldfields Highway from Kalgoorlie to Menzies.

The area was the focus of an Easter trip in April 1999 where the Club participated in a search (unsuccessful) for mallee fowl nests. This year’s excursion was to assist the Goldfields Regional Office of CALM in monitoring traplines and surveying vegetation at these sites. CALM officers, Mark Cowan (Biological Officer) and Vanessa Clarke (Conservation Officer) came out to Goongarrie for the 9 days.

The pit traplines had already been installed and monitored for several years. There were 31 sites, each with 2 lines of 5 traps (310 altogether). They ranged from the Adelong dunes in the north, to areas on the Davyhurst Road in the west and south, to areas on the Comet Vale road in the north and east and across the highway to near Lake Goongarrie. There was a wide range of soils and vegetation – dunes, salt lake edges, saltbush flats, laterite and rocky hillsides, eucalypt woodlands, mulga areas. While the traplines were already in situ, the 31 botany quadrats (30x30m square) had to be measured out and marked with metal stringers and fluorescent pink paint and ribbons.

The group divided each day into trappers and botanists. The numbers in the two groups varied and everyone spent time in each. While the trappers went out early the botanists were more leisurely having an 8 am start. There was also time for people to follow their interests – the Davisons spent time looking for fungi (some 16+ species). John Dell developed the bird list with help from others (over 50, which was good considering the season), the McCrums looked at lichens (60 species collected with a number to be sent east for identification) and arthropods and the Horners examined a geocache. The weather in the area had been very dry, with virtually no winter rain, which had an effect on what was collected or sighted.

Half the trap lines were opened 4 days then closed and then the other half opened. The latter ones were closed early because of the traps filling with water from the rain. The many helpers made this monitoring relatively efficient and we all enjoyed seeing the dunnarts and mice that were trapped. The cold weather (down to around zero degrees) meant the traps had to be checked early and the numbers were low. However the warmer Friday night before the rain resulted in 21 animals being trapped. The species list included Ningaui rideiWongai Ningaui, and three Dunnarts, (Sminthopsis crassucaudataFat-tailed Dunnart, S. dolichurraLittle Long-tailed Dunnart, S. hirtipesHairy-footed Dunnart).
Three mice (Mus musculus – House Mouse, Pseudomys hermannsburgensisSandy Inland Mouse, P. bolomaiBolam’s Mouse), and one bunny! Not surprisingly there was but one frog – a dried out Goldfields Bullfrog (Neobatrachus wilsmorei) from Lake Ballard. There was a female euro around the homestead and others on the road (I passed 5 on the way back from Lake Ballard at night). A dingo was sighted on the way out to Adelong dunes.

Other highlights of our stay: the Desert grass tree (Xanthorrhoea thorntonii) standing nearly 3 metres tall on the way to the Adelong dunes; the temperamental showers; cleaning out the gnamma hole behind the homestead; pushing through acacia etc., in the attempt to get the quadrats square and 30 metres in length; paying court to the botany queen (Daphne) and princess (Vanessa) as they sat on chairs, (thank goodness there were virtually no ephemerals); the huge variety of eucalypts; lunch beside Lake Goongarrie where the sky and the lake merged seamlessly at the horizon ; chatting around the fire at night; snippets of history of the area thanks to John Luyer’s research; the wild fury of the rain squall that hit us at 1.30 am on Sunday morning (it would have been more interesting if Vanessa had been in her insect tent that night!); the brilliant night sky with Jupiter very visible.

Most of us spent Sunday afternoon at Menzies (just one pub and service station), the cemetery there (interesting worked galvanised metal headstones and wreaths) and, of course, Inside Australia, the Anthony Gormley art work at Lake Ballard consisting of 50 metal statues of the people of Menzies.

Altogether the trip was fruitful, interesting, educative; the weather was kind – sunny days, cold nights and only a few showers on the weekend; the company was enjoyable and everyone took the few glitches without too much fuss. Thanks to all concerned.

Margaret Larke

Fungi

Whilst others on the Goongarrie Long Range Excursion were busy checking the animal traplines or setting up vegetation quadrants, Pete and I scoured the nearby bush for fungi. We expected to find some, but not as many as we ultimately collected. In all we made 64 collections or 25 species. Most collections were of the puffballs and their allies, including the Black Powderpuff (Podaxis pistillaris), a common conspicuous Stalked Puffball of arid areas, but there were also tiny Stalkballs (Tulostoma spp.), Earthstars (Geastrum spp.) and Desert Puffballs (Calvatia caelata and Disciseda spp.). We found bracket fungi, including the Scarlet Bracket (Pycnoporus coccineus), recycling dead wood, as well as a few resupinate fungi on the underside of logs.

On the second day we found small Dung Buttons (Poronia erici) on euro scats, and spent much of the rest of our time unsuccessfully looking at all sorts of dung, trying to find some more. One of the most interesting finds was the aecidial stage of a Rust Fungus (Maireana sp.) on bluebush. There was a lot of Gall Rust (Uromycladium sp.) on the acacias at the station, but we did not collect these as they were not sporulating.

Two of the species we collected (Black Powderpuff and small Dung Buttons) are Fungimap target species. So there are 11 records from the Goongarrie excursion for this Australian fungal mapping project.

Pete and I also collected bark from several trees at Goongarrie. We intend soaking and incubating them to see how many different slime moulds develop.

I have identified the fungi as best as I can. Many of our collections were of only a single fruiting body. Where the collection comprises several specimens they will be deposited at the WA Herbarium

Elaine Davison