Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Now you see me, now you don't.

One of the most striking birds that visit our garden is the Scarlet Honeyeater, Myzomela sanguinolenta, or I should  say the male bird, as the female is a olive brown with just a touch of pink under the chin. Although they are birds that generally spend their time in the tree tops feeding on the blossoms of the Eucalyptus trees, they are attracted into the garden when our bottlebrush  shrubs, Callistemons are in flower, particularly during the spring when the flowering is most prolific. However at present we are having our Autumn flowering and we were pleased to have a visit from a few today. They flit quickly through the foliage so I was fortunate to get this shot of one whilst it took a break in a Banksia tree, where it had sampled the nectar from its flowers. When they are in the Callistemons  they blend in very well with the flowers, as you can see in the second photo. They range is down the east coast of Australia as they follow the flowering of the Eucalyptus trees from far north Queensland to south east Victoria.

Monday, 28 March 2011

End of the procession

This is tail-end Charlie and a couple of it's mates, at the end of a procession that I came across today as it was heading for another food tree. These characters are the larvae of the Bag-shelter moth Ochnoaster lunifer and their common name, processionary caterpillars, derives from their method of moving from one food tree to the next in a long line, nose to tail. This line was about 6 unbroken metres and as the caterpillars are around 40to50mm long there were about 140 individuals in the procession. They favour a number of  wattle species, of which we have a few as part of our natural bush areas, as their food source . This procession has the ability to strip a small wattle shrub (say 2m) in just one night. On larger trees they work at night then spend the day at the base of the tree all huddled together in a spun web that looks like an upturned bag surrounding the trunk, then return to the foliage the next night and so on until they have eaten all the leaves. As a very hairy caterpillar they are not one to handle, as the hairs can cause severe reactions in some people and an irritation to most

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Ladybird mapped out

This ladybird is one of many that visit the pumpkin patch to feed on the powdery mildew deposits on the leaves. I love the road map look of the leaf, it reminds me of flying at 10000m and looking at the landscape of fields and the roads below.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Worn, torn wanderer

For this butterfly, it looks like summer was pretty tough, with predators to avoid, competition for a mate and weather that brought storms to test the wings. Showing the wear and tear, this individual took a break to soak up some late afternoon sun. The wanderer (monarch in America) Danus plexippus plexippus is now well entrenched in the eastern regions of Australia since the species worked its way across the Pacific, becoming a resident species on many of the islands along the way. Unlike North America mass winter migrations are not general, but there have been small pockets of winter assemblages noted near Adelaide and Sydney.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Out & about

Mother wallaby visited just outside the office this morning and the youngster hopped out of the pouch to test out the use of legs. It was obvious that it was one of the early excursions out of the pouch, as it was a bit gangly and not wanting to move too far from mum.
We have a fallen tree trunk about 4m long as part of our landscape and mum was feeding on one side and the youngster would do a circuit around the log and then back to mum. When first out of the pouch they love to tear off at full pace, slightly out of control with legs flying all over the place. A few rounds of the log then back to mum, stick the head in the pouch for a drink, then off again. Mum hopped off about 20m to feed and he was away after her at top speed; we never tire of watching the joey's antics at this stage of their life.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

On the underside

Garden Orb Weavers were among the first creatures that got me interested in the natural world, as they were always a feature in our suburban garden during the summer months. When you ran into one of the sticky webs it was a terrifying experience for a little kid, but fascinating as well, as you could get right up close for a look. I also learnt that you could move them around so they would build their web to catch unsuspecting visitors coming down the garden path ; great fun! The other fascinating aspect was being able to watch them build the most perfect large wheel webs that seems to have been the model for every picture ever drawn of a spiderweb.
This female is one of the larger Garden Orb Weavers Eriophora transmarina. They come in a wide range of colour and patterns, which they seem to be able to change depending on their surroundings and most photos are of the upside but I thought the underside was a bit more dramatic for this shot.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Food Chain

This Dwarf Tree Frog or Green Reed Frog Litoria fallax is the most commonly seen frog around our house, as it is happy to be out during the daylight hours and even sunbaking on a leaf or stem. This character was on a leaf of an orchid in our shadehouse and I noticed it was waiting for the ants that were coming to the scale insects on the orchid, where they collect the sugary excretion form the scale. A scale insect can be seen on the elbow and an ant was out of its sight on its leg, but any that wandered down the leaf were gulped down. The colour of these frogs can vary from the bronze-green like this one to bright leaf green.

Monday, 14 March 2011

What's in a name

Many Australian birds have been given names that are more correctly applied to birds of the northern hemisphere, as the first Europeans arriving here based the names on the resemblance to birds of their homeland.
This bird is known for it's melodious song and was given the name Grey Thrush, but it also had habits that reminded people of shrikes, so it became the Grey-shrike Thrush, although it is not a member of either family.
Grey Shrike-thrush (female)
There are 5 species of Shrike-thrushes found in Australia and the Grey-shrike Thrush is the most widespread on the north and  east of the continent. The Western Shrike-thrush takes its place in the west, centre and south west. They are resident birds in our area, so we have the pleasure of their song throughout the year.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The hunter waits

Masters of the air, these dragonflies (I think Diplacodes sp) were on a break between their hunting flight that they were taking every minute or so, catching their prey on the wing. We have some 195+ species of dragonfly in Australia and fortunately we have many in our area with this being one of the most colourful.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Lesser Wanderer a frequent wanderer

Lesser Wanderer Danaus chrysippus petilia butterflies are regular visitors at Japara, particularly during the warmer months, as are their larger more colourful relation, the Wanderer (Monarch in the Americas). The lesser Wanderers are one of the most widespread Australian butterflies found throughout the country and the islands of Torres Strait. The spread of introduced cotton bushes Asclepias sp has probably assisted as they tend to be the plant that the larvae are found on most often. So even though the plants are a weed we keep enough for the butterflies. This one was in the vicinity of the cotton bush A fruticosa  that grow on outhe property.


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A handsome problem

This young Rusa Deer buck is one of the animals we would rather not have in the district. A descendant of a herd that were let out or escaped from a deer farm and found the area to their liking and ideal breeding.The herd multiplied rapidly and cause significant damage to the native vegetation as well as posing a major problem on the roads. Without any predator to make any impact on the numbers a shooting program has been implemented to try and eliminate them but so far they have only been reduced. It is unfortunate that such a handsome animal has to be killed, but as with so many of the feral animals that plague our country they are a huge environmental problem.