Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A night time of fireflies at Adels Grove - Outback Queensland

You know that feeling when people think you're bonkers and you're completely sure you're sane?
We recently experienced that up at Adels Grove near Boodjamulla National Park (formerly Lawn Hill). It's about a hundred and something kilometres from the Gulf of Carpentaria nearish where the western side of Cape York dips into the gulf. It's a long, long way from home in the south where we have proper winters and dry heat summers. It's hot, HOT, HOT, at this time of year and HUMID. UGH, UGH, UGH. Nothing dries out. Not us, not clothing, not anything. You take off your damply sweaty clothing at night and put it back on, still damply sweaty in the morning. (Limited space prohibits many changes, which wouldn't have made much difference anyhow as they'd have felt damp too.)
We were camped in the 'grove' - the quiet spot for people mostly in tents and without generators. The trees are thick, rotten (one fell less than a metre from a nearby camp with a massive whumpfh) and with a very, very dense canopy. There's a constant dropping of what we could only guess was poo from billions of small tree dwelling creatures overhead, so we covered our mugs at all times, shook clothing out constantly, and I brushed my hair not at all. It was kind of like itty bitty soft pellets like those tasty chocolate sprinkles you decorate cakes with. yup. really.
We tend to sit in the dark after dinner, watching ... nothing in particular ... just soaking up the ambience, keeping an eye out for bats, listening for night birds. That kind of thing. Most people don't. They use lanterns, torches, made big fires (in 32C heat! - crazy) which means they don't see special things that their night eyes have adapted to see. 
Like fireflies!
The first night we were at Adels Grove, I had no idea what I was seeing, but a wee light seemed to float up from behind the table, over the stove, and waft up into a tree.
A cautious question; "Um, Trav, did you see that?" Thankfully he had. But what was it? Lights don't usually float gracefully upwards and settle in a tree. It wasn't a one off though, it kept happening in different locations around the campsite. Next morning I made a point of asking at reception, but the blank looks and cautious, but calm backing away made it clear what they thought. "Batty old woman, probably had too much to drink, gotta keep an eye out for that kind of person."
We watched night after night. If I believed in fairies, that's what they'd look like at night! I was mesmerised. I'd wake during the night, and with the fly of the tent off (trying to make use of any stray breeze to cool down just a morsel, please!) and fly-mesh covering the roof, I could see them flashing and pulsing, in groups, singly, sometimes clustered, at other times apparently wafting on a not-really-there breeze between branches.
As I said, the people at reception seemed to think I was living in fantasy land, and no other campers we spoke to had seen anything, but a ranger I cornered at Boodjamulla had seen one recently, so took my questions seriously. She didn't know much about them, but knew they existed in Australia. Gotta love park rangers! ... Except she asked hopefully if I'd caught one - no, no, no and no ... for all I knew it could have been a land form of the irukandji jellyfish which would leave me paralysed, in agony for ever, or possibly dead. 
Anyhow, now I'm home with reasonable internet and data, I can say with confidence that they were fireflies, and it seems we were there at just the right time to see them in abundance. 

There's a bit more about them here: 
http://malcolmtattersall.com.au/wp/2013/12/fireflies/


This is not a firefly. My guess is it's a locust. They were thick everywhere and hopped/flew, getting pelted noisily against the car covering it with sticky, smelly, brightly coloured bug gunge. When we camped at Mt Moffatt, the birds (pied butcherbirds?) had a wonderful time picking them out from behind the numberplate, under the car, and up in the mudguards. They feasted.






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2 comments:

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Sue -it's me, your old Canadian pal! What a lovely post. I love fireflies -such magical creatures. I've seen them quite a few times but always so surprising. The best and perhaps last time was in Jamaica about 15 years ago. I never associated them with a warm climate somehow.
Anywhoozie, glad you are still out there having fun. I'll drop by again.
Jan

Sue T said...

Great to hear from you Jan! Aren't fireflies amazing! I feel privileged to have seen them as we don't get them near where I live at all.
Hope you and yours are well.
cheers Sue