Monday, 28 February 2011

Lessons in flying

We are fortunate to have a pair of Wedge-tail eagles Aquila audax, whose territory includes our property and they are sighted most often when they are raising a young one. The food demands are high and usually they get ample from kangaroo, wallaby or deer road kill, but also they are very efficient hunters of young wallabies and kangaroos, as well as other small animals. The hill on our property is a favourite for the lift they get from  our  prevailing summer wind, which enables them to soar to height so they can glide to their next destination. We have seen them with their young most years and they have been around the past week giving flying and hunting lessons to their latest offspring.
Parent and young (right) in formation (other parent out of shot)

The youngster banks a turn

A young bird after take off in 2007

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Alpha ready for any beta

Eastern Grey Kangaroos Macropus giganteus giganteus keep in family groups with a dominant alpha male claiming mating rights for as many females as he can keep under control. This is the alpha male, with one of his females,who had is family grazing on one of the areas of slashed grass on the property. Unlike the wallabies that tend to have a varied diet of plants , the kangaroos are basically grass feeders. The numbers in our area have rapidly grown  as more of the small acreages keep much of their property mowed increasing the available food and large numbers can be seen on a daily basis in the local district. The main cause of death before old age is generally road kill as they are unpredictable near roads and will often jump into the path of a vehicle.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Looking out at a new world

After some 200+ days in the pouch it can get a bit cramped and it must be a bit of a relief to stick your head out and get a look at the world; if it is a bit scary you just duck back into the safety of the pouch where you can also get your food. This little Red-necked Wallaby is just old enough to start seeing what is happening outside the pouch but as yet not old enough to venture totally out. One of the benefits of being carried around in the pouch is seeing closeup what are mum's favourite plants to eat, what scares mum and what other creatures are around even funny two legged ones.
The Red-necked Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus banksianus is one of our two resident Macropods, the other being the Eastern Grey Kangaroo. Generally you can expect to see a few every day but at present we have a number of females with young at the stage of leaving the pouch and they like to stay close to the house as they have learnt that it is generally a bit safer from their predators Wedge-tail Eagles and Dingos.

Monday, 21 February 2011

A day for the pool

Yesterday's weather was hot and humid and we weren't the only ones thankful for a splash in the pool and our bird bath had a workout through the day as our feathered friends flew in to cool off. The various techniques for having a splash go form the quick dive in and out through to the all in and get totally soaked. Some make just a quick visit have a splash and go where others stay around for awhile to make a number of dives in and out.
Striated Thornbill  has a good soak

Little Thornbill tests the water
Just right for a splash

A Grey Fantail has a paddle
Check it out
Go for it

Yellow Robin ready for another dip

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Dollar on the line

Another summer visitor, the Dollar Bird or Roller spends a lot of time sitting on the wires or high branches keeping watch for any insects to hawk. The common name "Dollar Bird comes from the pale blue spot seen under the wing as they fly overhead, that was like a "silver dollar" and the name "Roller" from their aerobatics whilst hunting. They range over northern and eastern Australia during summer and migrate to New Guinea and other northern islands in Autumn through to late Spring.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Stick on the post

This character is usually more disguised, on a branch, rather than this standout position on one of our verandah posts. One of the some 140 species of stick and leaf insects found in Australia, this one Acrophylla tassellata is one of the larger ones (150mm body) and is related to the Regal phasma Acrophylla titan of North Queensland, which at a length of up to 300mm is one of the longest insects in the world. We get to see various species and they are not uncommon sights at this time of the year.As vegetarians these insects are feeders on the eucalyptus and some species can cause serious damage in the forestry industry, but this is not one of the problem ones.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Here for the summer

Just like noisy tourists, these Satin Flycatchers, are often heard with their distinctive rasping call (described as a "queeark " by Peter Slater) before you see them. The males are handsome characters in their formal dress and like many of the flycatchers they have a habit of shivering their tail on a regular basis which helps with the identification. Typical of tourists, they like to follow the sun, so head north to spend winter in Northern Queensland or New Guinea.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Little Critters

Yesterday much of my time was spent in the orchard watering and doing a bit of cleaning up of the trees, which gave me a chance to discover a few interesting little critters. As most of the trees in our orchard are citrus, we regularly see the Orchard Butterflies Papilio aegeus aegeus and their larvae that feed on the citrus leaves. They do very little damage to advance trees so we leave them to develop into beautiful butterflies like this male, that was not long out of the pupa. The pupa is also quite interesting with its girdle keeping the pupa in position on the branch and I managed to find one with the metamorphosis as yet incomplete

This species is restricted to Australia and a number of Islands in Torres Strait and is quite common down the east coast. Many native plants in the Rutaceae family provided the original food source for the larvae but the widespread cultivation of citrus has enabled the growth in numbers of this butterfly. At present you will find a few of these in the orchard floating around looking for suitable leaves to lay eggs or looking for a mate.

Something a little more bizarre, although with striking colours is the Two-spined spider Poeclopachus australiae that was resting on a leaf.

This genus of spiders has species spread through tropical and sub-tropical regions and Australia has a number of species with extraordinary shapes and colours. They are web spinners that capture a vast array of insects during the summer and are harmless to humans.

Another predator in the insect world are the Robber Flies, but rather than wait for the prey to come to them they are active hunters, catching other insects on the wing. It is a large family of flies some being large specimens and one of those is the Robber Fly Asilidae-Asilinae which is a stout hairy fly with strong legs and with very large eyes to assist in the hunt for fast flying insects. The example I found (50mm long) in the orchard, had just captured a bee and then landed to devour its catch.

Mother & Son

The southerly change on Sunday brought welcome relief from the over 30 degree and high humidity days and also brought a drop of rain to freshen up the vegetation. Our wildlife also made the most of the change and were out and about, particularly the birds that during the hot weather spent most of the day in the heavy undergrowth.
Mother and son were part of a family group of Variegated Wrens busy foraging for insects and had taken some time out for a bit of preening.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Mum and her pretty boy

Our hot weather came to an end yesterday with a cool southerly change passing through and brining a welcome shower of rain; our first in 16 days. So today overcast and a pleasant 24degrees brought our birdlife out to enjoy

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Splendid Ochre says cheese

I took this photo a couple of days ago but it has taken awhile to identify the species, as there are a number of very similar ones in the genus, with a similar geographic range. One of the "Skippers" Genus Trapezites, this one is a Spendid Ochre Trapezites symmomus symmomus or Symmomus Skipper and was basking in the late afternoon sun on the leaf of a "Cheese Tree" Glochidion ferdinandi. The Cheese Tree gets its common name from the cheese shaped fruits that are bright red when ripe and resemble a cheese round similar to a Dutch Edam.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Discovering a new world

This juvenile Satin Bower Bird has been calling from the trees around our house for the past couple of days but it had been hard to spot,  particularly with the colouring of the young bird against the foliage and it was usually in the high branches. As this is a young bird it has not developed the shy habits of the adults and in the exploration of its world, it flew down onto the vine close to our front door, to present me with a photo opportunity.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Time for a dip

With the temperature over 30 degrees the past few days, birds are regular visitors to the garden bird baths in the late afternoon, when some of the heat has gone out of the day. The small birds like this Red Brow Finch and the Thorn Bills spend quite some time splashing around and getting well and truly soaked.