Monday, 27 October 2008

Out of the Armchair...

...And into the Deckchair

Last Thursday I went light trapping in Wadi Tarabat just at the base of Jebel Haffeet. It turned out to be a cosy affair with just me, Mike Gillett and Brigitte Howarth attending. I nearly gave up and went home when I couldn’t spot a flock of cars at the carpark where we were meeting, but a few texts and phone calls and things were sorted out. You’d have though the committee members of the Natural History group would have the group’s bumper stickers on their cars!

Any way we got to Wadi Tarabat and set up the light trap (and the deckchairs). It was fairly simple; consisting of two white sheets on the ground with a double bulb, which gave out UV and visible light, in the middle. Due to the breeze we did not get any large beetles (which Mike, the beetle expert, was hoping for) but there were other moments of interest.

Once we settled down to watch we were joined by a few large wasps. Luckily they were males so they couldn’t sting. The most interesting thing about these were their fuzzy abdomens, which made them look larger than they were. As nothing much was appearing I took the torch to look for geckos. I found two Stenodectylus doriae (whip tailed gecko) under some trees. These geckos are quite slow, and I could almost touch them, before they scuttled away. They are probably about average size for a gecko, very pale, almost translucent, and have brownish bars across the top of the body. Their eyes typically large nocturnal eyes and their snouts are quite snubbed.

I then wandered back to the light trap and managed to walk into a thorn tree whose branches extended out further than I thought. Luckily the spines broke off the tree instead of gouging into my flesh. I then had to sit down and pick out the spines that were lodged in my finger. They were curved like cat claws so if they had been less dry they could have made for a nasty scratch. A quick scrub with the antibacterial hand gel and I was off again, this time to show the geckos to Mike and Brigitte, who identified them and took a couple of photographs.

We then took a walk around the wadi looking out for anything else interesting. The best thing was a resurrection plant which Brigitte dug up for me. It came home with me and when I put it in a glass of water, the branches did indeed unfurl. However after a bit it curled itself back up again. It is now planted in a pot on the balcony. We then settled down at the light trap to watch for more arrivals. There were a couple of moths, some very small beetles and some adult ant lions, who although not as intriguing as their larvae were quite pretty. The best things we found in the trap were the picture wing flies which Brigitte has made a special study of. Unlike most picture wing flies the species here have a distinct picture of a small generic insect on their wings, absolutely fascinating.

Picture and text by Brigitte Howarth here

Just as we were about to pack up a very large green cricket appeared and when it declared to be nothing out of the ordinary Brigitte claimed it for her Wonder Gecko (Teratoscincus scincus) which she had rescued and now keeps in a vivarium. We finished up with a look at the unnatural rolling green hills of the Green Mubaasara. They are kept permanently watered and a shrubby succulent plays the role of grass on the slopes. The only natural thing about the area are the hot springs which are open for bathing.

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