Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Season's Greetings

A group of King Parrots flew in to greet us at Christmas breakfast and of course they are the perfect colours of Christmas. To make it even more in keeping with the season they tucked into a feast of Mistletoe.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

She's blue

Found a visitor on the deck this afternoon not too flighty and stayed for a couple of shots before taking to the wing.
 One of the native carpenter bees, solitary burrowing bees with quite a few species in the family. I am fairly sure this is the female (the male is more green in colour) Metallic Blue Carpenter Bee Xylocopa lestis areatus.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Litter in the corner

I was putting some tools away in the shed when I heard a scratching coming from a box in which Christmas decorations were stored and I expected that I was going to find an Antechinus as they are almost impossible to keep out. However after removing all the contents, I found not just one but a mum (Antechinus stuartii stuartii) with her litter of six or seven young. They were not happy and the youngsters clung tightly to their mother as she looked for somewhere to hide. After the photo shoot I found a suitable box for them and moved them to a sheltered area out of the shed which I hope they consider it more suitable and do not find their way back to the shed.

They are cute little creatures but they are a bit of a nuisance since they consider making a nest inside a box or a drawer is much better than in a hollow log or amongst rocks. The female (there are no adult males at this stage as they all die after mating season) brings leaves and grasses into the spot she has chosen for a nest and builds a ball from the materials and when the young are about 5 weeks old she leaves them there whilst she goes hunting for beetles, coackroaches, spiders and other insects.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A little pied

Saw a cormorant fly in and do a couple of circuits of the dam to check if there was any reason not to fly in and then satisfied a quick dive down to have a check for yabbies. Walked down to see if I could get a photo before it got spooked and found it sitting on a branch. Manage to get a few shots but most had vegetation in the way however it moved to another branch and I did manage to get a couple of photos before it took off.

It is a Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrcorax melanoleucos that has a range throughout Australasia and Indonesia and most of the ones I see in our area are around the lake shore or fishing in the lake where they are often in very large numbers.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hare about

We occasionally see hares on the property and they are usually hard to get near, but this morning we didn't have to try, as one came hopping up right outside the office and even stayed for a few photos.

European Brown Hares Lepus capensis were brought to Australia in 1837 as sport for hunters, when an attempt was made to introduce them into the wild in Tasmania without success. In 1862 a colony was established on the shores of Westernport Bay in Victoria and from there they have spread through Victoria, Tasmania, SE South Australia, most of NSW and into southern Queensland.
They are an agricultural pest particularly in Victoria and elsewhere as they cause damage to crops and  fruit tree plantings. Although not as significant a pest as rabbits they are difficult to control as they are not affected by the biological controls that have reduced rabbit populations. 

Our visitor hopped around nibbling on grass and dandelions and even ventured right to our front door before it spied me through the window and scampered off.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Patient hunter

We are having extremely hot and dry weather with little rainfall in the past four months and our bird baths are getting well used. Over the past week and a bit we have had a large Diamond Python located on the top of a fallen log that is part of the garden not far from our front door and for most of the day it is just curled up inconspicuously on top of the log.
However there is a bird bath located on the ground just below the log and the python had worked out that this was a likely location to catch its next meal. (I do not believe in intervening in the natural way of things, so life and death is part of everyday)
In the morning and late afternoon the python would position itself poised ready to strike and stay without moving for a number of hours. 
Birds are generally at this bird bath most mornings and afternoons but they had obviously worked out that the python was there as they gave it a wide berth and used our other bird baths.
I did think that it was only a matter of time before one arrived without knowing about the snake, however I was surprised yesterday morning to hear a scuffle and look out to see an unexpected result.
The water had brought a Red-necked Wallaby and her youngster in for a drink and the python had the youngster in its deadly coils.
Death came relatively quickly through suffocation, as you will note a coil around the mouth and the many coils tightening around the chest.
As soon as the struggling ceased the python arranged itself at the head and through the expansion of elasticised ligaments holding the jaws and then dislocation of the jaws it commenced to swallow the wallaby.
Throughout, the mother wallaby was nearby not able to do anything and it appeared not all that certain of what was happening and where the youngster had gone.
With the wallaby completely swallowed the python put its jaws back in place and moved off to find a secluded place to spend time digesting the large meal and it will be unlikely to need to hunt for sometime.
 Mother wallaby stayed around for awhile looking around and givimg little calls before moving to feed.
You feel a sense of loss at seeing the death of a cute furry little critter but the python has to exist as well and they are quite beautiful in their own way.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Heliotrope, the food not the colour

A warm still night brought out quite a few moths and a small one (about 3cm wingspan. that I caught was quite a standout with bright spots on a white background.
The identification check took a bit of time matching as there are two very similar moths but the pattern of the dots fitted the Heliotrope Moth Utetheisa pulchelloides one of the ARCTIIDAE family. They are widespread through the Indo-Australasian region and the caterpilars feed on plants of the Borage Family. The introduced European Heliotrope is a widespread weed throughout Australia and is poisonous to cattle and sheep so this moth could be a biological control agent then again it might also decimate positive plants on the borage family. Interesting to note that the name Heliotrope was given to plants that turn towards the sun and some of those had blue flowers that gave rise to a Heliotrope Blue colour.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Monitor and company

A warm day and a young lace monitor chose a quiet spot on the deck for a sunbake with a couple of  garden ornament Wombats for company.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

White trim

Found a moth resting up for the day on the ceiling of the verandah and when I tracked down the identity I was surprised at the common name "Browntail Gum Moth". 

As the photo shows the most striking feature is the white trim on both pair of wings and the brown tail is well hidden under the folded wings.
It is one of the LYMANTRIIDAE family Urocoma baliolalis with a wide range over eastern Australia where the caterpillars feed on eucalyptus leaves.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Superb Scarlet

Scarlet Honeyeaters are beginning to arrive in numbers as their favourite food shrubs in the garden are coming into spring flowering. Today they were busy in the Grevilleas and this one was feeding on the hybrid Grevillea "Superb".

Monday, 26 August 2013

Tasty buds

A pair of Galahs called in as one fancied a snack and landed in the top of our Christmas Bush and proceeded to snack on the buds and doing a bit of pruning at the same time.
Its mate was content just to sit on the powerline and wait till the snacking was finished then they both flew on their way. Fortunately for us not too many buds were consumed so we still will have a good display in a couple of months.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

10 minutes at the watering hole

With hardly any rain in the past four weeks the birds are making a lot of use of the bird baths and a favourite for the smaller birds is a large shallow sandstone dish, that we have placed on the ground amongst small shrubs. I stood nearby for just on 10min as a steady stream flew in for a bath or a drink. They don't spend much time just a quick splash and then off so I missed a couple of shots and some are not the best.
Striated Thornbill

Red-brow Finch
Varigated Wren (m)
Grey Fantail
Eastern Silvereye
Yellow Robin
Varigated Wren (f)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Catching Yabbies

Lately in our area there are quite a few White-necked Herons Ardea pacifica to be seen in paddocks where they are likely to be feeding on insect larvae, insects and frogs that are becoming active. However today I noticed one flying in to check out the feeding possibilities at our dam.
It quietly worked around the edge and looking for any movement that promised a tasty meal.
We stocked the dam some years ago with Yabbies Cherax destuctor, a small native  freshwater crayfish that are nice eating albeit a bit fiddly as they are not particularly large.
We have seen Cormorants spend time hunting them and getting mainly the young ones so I was interested to see what success the heron would have.
 A sudden lunge into the shallow edge and I waited to see if there was a catch and if so what was the victim.
Success and it was a Yabbie which can be seen firmly held on the tip of the beak and
in the 15min or so that I watched, it managed to catch three before flying off to look for another feeding ground.
White-necked Herons are one or the larger Herons at about 1m and are found throughout Australia.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Morning Sunbake

A warm start to the day brought out a few early sunbathers, the expected Yellow-faced Whip Snakes who have been quite active with mating being a top priority.
 Sharing the same rock area was a young Easern Bluetongue Lizard Tiliqua scinocides, the first that we have seen around the house although they are often sighted sunning on the road and drive.
Bluetongue lizards are one of the most common Australian lizards and one of the largest in the skink family with a range throughout the country. Often found in suburban gardens they are one of the first introductions to nature for children and sometimes kept as pets.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Plentiful supply

Our Gigantic Lily is now almost fully open and has become a busy feeding station for the honeyeaters as well as bees and other insects.
An Eastern Spinebill gets a fill up
 Today a trio of Little Wattle Birds worked over the flowers and as there is so much nectar available they were quite content to feed together.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Tunnelling time

The first Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus has arrived and is busy tunnelling a nest site and when he is taking a break he perches on a nearby branch, giving distinctive loud calls to attract a mate to check out the nest site.
I am not so sure that he has chosen a good site for the nest as it is in an area where the lace monitors regularly hunt through the summer months and eggs are a favourite food. However I will be interested to see if he finds a mate and they use the site.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Night and daze

A loud bang on a window interrupted our TV viewing last night and on investigation we found a dazed Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides perched on the verandah railing. It was probably swooping on a moth and did not see the window, a problem we often have with birds during the day but this was our first night occurrence.
A few minutes rest and it was off again on its silent hunt for insects, moths, frogs and other night time creatures. They range throughout most of Australia and are often seen in car headlights as they swoop in after their prey and unfortunately many are road kill victims.
During the day they can be seen if you can spot them roosting in a tree looking very much like a broken dead branch.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A Spring arrival

Our unseasonably warm weather has flora and fauna a bit confuse thinking spring has already arrived and today we had a migrant fly in and sing in full voice looking to attract a mate. It didn't give me a clear photo opportunity being content to stay amongst the mistletoe foliage where it blended in to the background.
 The visitor is a Olive-Backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus  which has a range from New Guinea and northern Australia where they are year round residents down through eastern Australia and as far as Adelaide being migrants in the southern parts.

Gigantic Lily's first diner

About twenty years ago we planted what we thought was a Gymea Lily, Doryanthes excelsa but as it grew larger we thought that maybe it was the cousin Doryanthes palmeri Gigantic Lily. The range of this plant is north-east NSW and south-east Queensland where as the Gymea Lily is south-east NSW

 We have been waiting for a flower spike to to appear and this year our first flowering has occurred with a spike about 4m long and the individual flowers are just starting to open. The first to try the  nectar of the flowers was a Lewin Honeyeater.
We also have Gymea lilies in the garden and after only about five years we have a flower spike developing and expect it to be in full bloom in the next month or so.

Monday, 1 July 2013

A sip of nectar

Our wet weather has reduced the opportunities for photos, but a break in the weather today saw butterflies make the most of the opportunity, to feed and try and attract a mate. At this time of year we have large numbers of Common Jezabel butterflies Delias nigrina, busy mating and laying eggs on the new leaves of mistletoe for their lavae to feed on in spring.
You can't miss them when they are on the wing, as the white upper wings contrast with the predominantly black under wing, seemingly flashing on and off as they fly.
A Coastal Banksia Banksia intergrifolia has lots of flower spikes out and they are probing to be a real magnet as feeding stations.

A male flies in to take on nectar that is in plentiful supply from the mass of flowers and shows the brilliant white of the upper wings.

Once on the flower spike it wastes no time before it is sipping its fill and a honey bee also gets in for its share.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A taste for fruit

A dark shape on the verandah ceiling ouside our kitchen turned out to be a large moth that must have been attracted by the light last night and had settled to await tonight for another flight. It was not in a great spot for a photo so capture in a plastic container enabled it to be repositioned on a table.
When it was being moved in the container I noticed bright colours on the hind wings but each time I tried to get the wings displayed in the open position the moth flew off but fortunately landed a short distance away.
 My only way to get the display was with it contained and trying to escape the container.
Not a great photo but it does show the hidden beauty of the orange and black markings.
After some research I identified it as one of the Fruit Piercing moths in the NOCTUIDAE family sub family Catocaline Eudocima fullonia. 
Widespread worldwide throughout tropical regions it is an orchard pest of many types of  fruit and in Queensland citrus and tropical fruits are widely affected. It is the adult moth that causes the problem as it pierces the fruit with a strong proboscis and sucks the juice. The hole allows disease to enter making the fruit unsaleable.
We are likely to be at the southern end of its range and this is the first one I have seen but neighbours have reported having problems. At present wedo not have enough numbers to cause us any significant problem in the orchard, although with global warming it could be in the future .

An interesting features are the pair of labial palps in front of the eyes and the shoulder tufts.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Another moth and unusual predator

Another moth visitor last night and I thought the very distinctive patterns on the wings would make identification relatively easy but although I have found very similar looking moths this one has a few different markings.

So it would seem to be one of the species in the ANTHELIDAE family and the closest I can find is Anthela limonea butI will happily be corrected if someone knows the identity.

Today, when I was cutting a tree up for firewood, I noticed nearby in amongst a deep cover of bark and leaf litter the telltale sign of a silent predator. The red and white fruiting stem of a fungi Cordyceps militaris, that invades chrysalis of various insects or  caterpillars, gaining nutrition from their bodies.

I don't know what type of insect was the victim but you can see the small egg-shaped cases that held the small larva, from which the fruiting body has burst forth. There is some interest in this fungi from a medicinal view point and a related fungi in Tibet is worth more than gold. This species is found throughout NSW and Victoria.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Wing shine

After being away for some time it is good to get back to the blog and first up are a few photos of a moth that was attracted to the lights yesterday evening.

 The metallic shine of the wings was a particularly striking feature but as yet I haven't identified the species.

The other notable point for identification was two orange coloured spots on the underwings.