The Disappearing Egg Trick

I was collecting Blue Devil seed in my garden today when nearby, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white egg approximately 10 mm diameter disappearing quickly down into a hole in the ground, like a white billiard ball into a pocket.

Now you see it…

Now you don’t!

Putting the seed aside I grabbed my camera and waited patiently until I saw the white ball reappear…. being carried by a spider!

rear end of Wolf Spider with egg sac 15 Feb 2020

The spider hung around the entrance to its burrow, holding the egg sac between its hind legs facing it towards the sun. Every time I tried to photograph this the spider retreated into its burrow. I would go away for a while and come back to find it sunning its egg sac once again. This went on from midday until 6pm!

Front of Wolf Spider at burrow entrance carrying white egg sac behind, 15 Feb 2020

From Museum Victoria website about Wolf Spiders: “Males court female through a series of leg drums and vibrations while ‘dancing’ with his forelegs. If the female is receptive she will allow him to approach. The male will then present the female with a sperm package on one of his palpal bulbs, (as spiders do not have penises) which she will store and use to fertilise her eggs. Sometime after fertilisation the female produces an egg sac by weaving a circular mat of fine silk onto which she deposits a hundred or more eggs. She then weaves silk around the eggs, draws up the sides of the mat and sews it into a silken ball. The size of this silken ball is often about the same as the spider itself. Using strong silken threads, she then attaches the egg case to the under surface of her abdomen using her spinnerets (the organs that make silk) and carries it with her, even when hunting. She incubates the eggs during the day by facing the egg case towards the sun and slowly turning it. Thirty to forty days later the eggs hatch producing up to 200 spiderlings. The spiderlings do not immediately disperse. Instead they climb up their mother’s legs and ride on her back for a few weeks, often covering her several layers deep. The spiderlings do not share any of the prey that the mother catches, and if they fall off they are not rescued. When they are ready to fend for themselves they disperse via silk strands. This maternal care of the spiderlings is unusual in the spider world”.

Magic sky

Returning home from up north last evening.

Magic sky over the plains … click to enlarge.

Looking south from Moolort Plains towards Mount Koorocheang, 14th February 2020

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Meet the new generation

Rainbow Bee-eaters have been moving into the forest over the past couple of weeks, leaving their breeding grounds as small, mixed flocks of adults and recently fledged juvenile birds.

I enjoyed a delightful interlude last evening along South German Track, where some youngsters gathered around me as they searched for insects and perched cooperatively on low shrubs. The next few weeks will be spent in the forest before they depart to northern climes – generally all have departed by mid March.

Immature Rainbow Bee-eaters lack the dark gorget (or bib) on the throat and while not as strikingly coloured as the adults are still very beautiful birds.

Rainbow Bee-eater (immature), South German Track, 12th February 2020

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Nothing unusual

I start all of my birding ‘expeditions’ with a sense of expectation, hoping for something new or unusual.

I’m often pleasantly surprised, but never let-down, even when a journey produces the expected sightings. Such was the case as I wheeled around Cairn Curran on Sunday evening. Others on the list included: Black-fronted Dotterel, Red-kneed Dotterel, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Darter, Grey Teal, Australian Shelduck, Wood Duck and White-fronted Chat.

Australian Pelican, Picnic Point, 9th February 2020

Silver Gulls

Masked Lapwing

White-faced Heron

Purple Swamphen on the Loddon River @ Baringhup

Signs of the times

We’re heading towards autumn with the recent rain and cooler nights a sign of pleasant days to come.

I’ve spotted a few Grey Currawongs recently in the Muckleford bush and last evening came across a youngster, calling expectantly to an accompanying parent. The yellow gape of the juvenile is evident in the images below, while the adult looks a little ragged – the result of post-breeding moult.

Spreading Wattle Acacia genistifolia is now flowering, adding a welcome touch of colour to the dry bush. This species usually starts flowering in January and will continue through till late autumn.

Adult Grey Currawong, South German Track, 8th February 2020

Juvenile Grey Currawong

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Adult Grey Currawong … in moult

Spreading Wattle

A wagtail at the water

On most visits to the ‘pool’ at the Rise and Shine a Willie Wagtail will turn up at some stage to drink and bathe.

Largely unconcerned by my intrusion each visit is enjoyed, by myself and the wagtail!

Willie Wagtails are in the same genus, Rhipidura, as the fantails, but are a significantly larger bird. Grey Fantails weigh between 7 and 10 grams, while Willie Wagtails come in around 20 grams on average.

Willie Wagtail, Rise and Shine, 7th February 2020

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A follow up to yesterday’s less than definitive post regarding a ‘mystery’ honeyeater. The considered opinion of a number of experts is that it was most likely a Fuscous Honeyeater, not a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (which does appear in small numbers locally at this time of year). A ‘true’ Fuscous Honeyeater is pictured below, a non-breeding adult that arrived to drink just after the Willie Wagtail departed.

Fuscous Honeyeater

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Welcome rain … again!

Following last evening’s thunderstorm (8mm) I’m keen to get out to the Rise and Shine over the weekend to see what effect it might have had on the birds.

Here is a selection from about a week ago, captured around one of the temporary pools at the “Shine”. A party of Varied Sittellas was the highlight.

Peaceful Dove, Rise and Shine, 27th January 2020

Varied Sittella

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Varied Sittellas … two up!

Willie Wagtail

White-plumed Honeyeater

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater … or is it?

This last image has me a little baffled … could it be a hybrid Fuscous x Yellow-plumed Honeyeater?