Just add water …

What a difference a drop of rain makes!

As mentioned previously it hasn’t been a particularly wet year, but just enough to encourage a few local freshwater meadows to spring into life.

Just how birds such as the Black-winged Stilt find these oases is a mystery to me  … clearly not to the birds.

Black-winged Stilt, Moolort Plains @ Campbelltown, 19th August 2019

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White-necked Heron and Yellow-billed Spoonbill

White-necked Heron

Local variations

Female Red-capped Robins are always less spectacular than their male counterparts, however, some individuals (such as the one pictured below) can be striking. This female, found singing sweetly near Spring Hill Track yesterday, is possibly the most colourful one I’ve seen. The crown was a bright, rusty-red with a few splashes of red on the breast. Most females lack the red colouration – locally I’d say about 30-40% of females have some colour but not usually as bold as yesterday’s find.

Female Red-capped Robin, Spring Hill Track, 17th August 2019

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Yellow-footed Antechinus near Bells’s Lane Track

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List: Crested Shrike-tit, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-throated Treecreeper, Little Lorikeet, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Little Eagle, Grey Shrike-thrush, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Weebill, Striated Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Varied Sittella.

The bush awakens

It’s wonderful to wander through our bush full of flowering Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha). As the colour fills the woodlands, invertebrates seem to be waking up.

Golden Wattle

Golden Wattle blossom

The flowers attract many pollinators and in the sunlight of a still clear day, minuscule flies are common. Some of this seem well under a millimetre long, but I’ve yet to manage a photo of one so small. This one was about 3 mm long.

fly on golden wattle

Fly on Golden Wattle

Ants on the wattles seem more interested in the secretions from the little gland in the bend of the leaf petiole than they are in the flowers. This one was only couple of millimetres long.

Ant on Golden Wattle

Ant at leaf petiole gland

Looping caterpillars like this one of the moth genus Chlenias are out in force. This one is hanging from a Golden Wattle.

Hanging Chlenias - Looping Caterpillar

Chlenias caterpillar

Others were munching on leaves and flowers.

Looping Caterpillar - Chlenias sp.

Chlenias sp.

These same caterpillars are also very keen on the Drooping Cassinia (Cassinia arcuata).

Chlenias sp

Chlenias sp. on Cassinia

The Cassinia is also favoured by small flies at the moment.

Fly on Cassinia

Fly on Cassinia

Nearby, a Climbing Sundew (Drosera macrantha) seemed keen on the small flies that were visiting the Cassinia shrubs. Can a plant be keen on something? I was very excited to find this plant as I’ve not seen this species of Sundew on our place in the 25 years that we’ve called it “our place”. Thanks to Frances Cincotta for identifying the plant for us!

Climbing Sundew

A Climbing Sundew feast.

 

In broad daylight

The Southern Boobook is, of course, a nocturnal bird. Seeing one in broad daylight is unusual, unless you happen to come across a roosting individual and in these cases they are usually secreted in a hollow or deep shade.

The bird pictured below was found by the roadside on the outskirts of Newstead earlier this week (thanks for the call Dean!). Perhaps it had survived an overnight encounter with a vehicle, but by the time I arrived it was looking reasonably healthy and able to fly strongly towards a safer home in the Muckleford bush.

Southern Boobook, Newstead, 12th August 2019

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Co-incident

adjective:
1 – occurring together in space or time.

2 – in agreement or harmony.

Pretty much sums up the following collection, assembled yesterday in the Mia Mia. The male Scarlet Robin foraged on the woodland floor in front of me, with the Common Bronzewing perched above. Scented Sundew Drosera aberrans and Rough Wattle Acacia aspera – yet to peak, provided a lovely complement.

Rough Wattle, Mia Mia Track, 11th August 2019

Male Scarlet Robin

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Male Common Bronzewing

Scented Sundew, Red Box and Chocolate Lily

A Black Swan event … sort of

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist – a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

  • The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history,  science, finance, and technology.
  • The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  • The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.

Last weekend I visited a lovely shallow, freshwater wetland on the Moolort Plains, at the southern end of the plains near Campbelltown. Two things surprised me, firstly that the wetland was close to full (it’s been an ‘average’ winter but not especially wet), and secondly, that there were five active Black Swan nests scattered across the wetland. This is a great result and demonstrates the ability of this species to breed opportunistically when conditions and habitat are suitable.

Black Swan on nest, near White’s Swamp on the Moolort Plains, 4th August 2019

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Black Swan sentinel

More winter macros

As the Golden Wattles (Acacia pycnantha) bloom, a wander into the bush reveals some more of the invertebrates that brave the winter cold.

On one of the beautiful wattle blossoms, a tiny fly, 5mm long, sleeps deeply as I twist the branch to get a clear view. Pollen has stuck to the tiny sleeper.

Fly on Golden Wattle bloom

A fly sleeps on Golden Wattle.

On another Golden Wattle, a Slender Leaf-shaped Orb Weaver spider (Araneus talipedatus) sits in his beautiful web. As my light disturbs him, he runs up the web to shelter on a leaf. The big, brownish pedipalps give away the sex of this tiny predator.

Slender Leaf-shaped Orb Weaver

Slender Leaf-shaped Orb Weaver

A small bright red spot on an old stump catches my eye. I am delighted to find a Red Velvet Mite hunting on the stump. This adult, about 5mm long, freely wanders for food in leaf litter and on dead wood. Its larvae attach to insects and spiders, drawing blood before dropping off to metamorphose into this delightfully fuzzy little creature. These small animals are classed as arachnids, but are not spiders.

Red Velvet Mite

Red Velvet Mite

I was very pleased to be able to see the eyes on this wonderful creature. The photo looks to me a bit like a mini red echidna.

Red Velvet Mite

The face of a Velvet Mite

Red Velvet Mite

Quite an agile explorer