Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Working in the vegetable garden today getting beds ready for spring planting and I managed to dig up a Wrinkled, or Eastern Burrowing Toadlet Uperoleia rugosa.

As the second of their common names suggests these characters spend a bit of time underground, particularly during winter and emerge after warm spring and summer rains. They are found through southern Queensland and much of NSW.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Small & Large

This morning a little flash of colour drew my attention to a small bird, a Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus, pecking at bark fibres to collect for nesting material.

Pardalotes are in the Flower Pecker family that also includes the Mistletoe Bird , however contrary to the family name, Pardalotes tend to prefer insects as their main food source, particularly scale insects. Often the first sign of Pardalotes in your vicinity is the peck peck sounds as they feed high in the canopy; mainly Eucalyptus trees. There are nine species of Pardalote and they are only found in Australia, split into two groups, four Spotted and five Striated. These small birds (10cm) that spend most of the time in the tree tops at nesting time shun the trees and build their nests in a tunnel dug into an earthen bank or though they will also use small hollows at the base of trees. In suburban areas they are at times found digging their tunnel into hanging flower baskets.
We have had a pair of Striated Pardalotes nesting over the past four years in the bank next to our drive and we have had Spotted nesting in various locations around the property. These Spotted Pardalotes have picked a section of the driveway bank about 2m from the tunnel that the Striated pair use and have dug their tunnel which I found after watching where the male that collected the nesting material went. They fly to a bush near the nest tunnel, then check that there is no danger around before diving down and into the tunnel. I spent quite some time trying to get a photo as one of the pair went into the tunnel but they are so fast I ended with just a photo of the entrance or a glimpse of a tail disappearing. However I did get one blurred shot (below) which I decided to post as it indicates the speed and the only view you generally get as they dive in.

Around mid-day as I was working in the vegetable garden unmistakable cackling calls heralded the arrival of a pair of White-breasted Sea Eagles, Haliaetus leucogaster, the second largest of our eagles.
The pair soared overhead for a few minutes which enabled a couple of hurried shots before they moved on.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Tree climber

After a couple of weeks away we are back and enjoying spring weather. Today was quite warm which brought out one of our Lace Monitor lizards which I surprised as I walked down the track. faced with a possible threat it took the usual action and headed for the nearest tree and climbed with the first dash making about 5m, out of danger and a chance to look over its shoulder to assess the potential danger.

The next move was to switch to the other side of the tree away from the potential threat and move higher.

Of course when I moved down the track so I could see it, that was time to switch back to the original side and go higher to a branch to stop and wait until the threat (me) had gone, before returning to the ground to continue its search for food. This is the first sighting of a monitor this season and is a sure sign of an early spring.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

On burnt ground

We have part of the property where grass, mainly native blady grass, is the dominant vegetation and we have the area divided into three sections which we burn in rotation. The burning helps keep the grass thriving and inhibits the introduced whisky grass from taking over. The grass areas are important habitat for quail, bandicoots, bush rats, grass birds and many insects and unfortunately many properties keep their grass constantly mown turning the area into a green desert. We burnt one section last Sunday and the fire brings a feast for Butcher birds and Kookaburras picking off the insects as they take flight. Then burnt area becomes a feeding ground for other species and today we had a Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis probing the ground for grubs, worms and insects.

The afternoon sun catching the back plumage and bringing out the colours that are often missed just looking like a plain black back. A Masked Lapwing or Spur-wing Plover Vanellus miles (southern form) also worked over the ground whilst its partner stayed on the eggs nearby.

As the new grass starts to emerge the kangaroos and wallabies will converge to make the most of the tender new shoots, so we will have lots of activity in this area through spring.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

More like shag pile than red velvet

Working in the garden today and came across one little critter that is hard to miss even though it is only about 3mm in size.

A relation of spiders this is one of the Red Velvet Mite species (or though this one is more shag pile carpet) of the genus Trombidium and their bright ruby red colouring makes them hard to miss. They are a predator of other insects and generally beneficial in the garden.
Today has been almost summer weather and the heat brought snakes out to soak up the warmth so first sighting this season of a Red-belly Black Snake, a Diamond Python and the Yellow-faced Whip Snake.
I guess they were making the most of it as we are due for cooler weather in the next day or so.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Blossom time

Getting some bird photos at present is a little difficult as the eucalyptus are starting to blossom which has meant that the birds are in the tree tops either feeding on the blossoms or the insects that are feeding on the blossom. Our lemon scented gum is a major attraction and there were Brown honeyeaters, Eastern spine-bills, Yellow-faced honeyeaters, Lewin honeyeaters and even a mistletoe bird busy feeding and the bird calls were competing to be heard over the hum of the bees that were also hard at work.
lemon scented gum Eucalyptus citrodora

Mistletoe Bird amongst the gum blossoms
Also had a visit from a odd looking moth last night and managed a couple of photos this morning.
Hypographa phlegetonaria