With old friends at the ‘Shine’

Enjoyed the morning with some old friends at the Rise and Shine.

Seen also but not pictured here … Sacred Kingfisher, Dusky Woodswallow, Fuscous Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Brown Treecreeper, Tree Martin and White-winged Chough.

Australian Owlet-nightjar, Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 25th January 2020

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White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike … just missed the shot!

Crested Shrike-tit

White-browed Babbler

Yellow-footed Antechinus

… and now for something completely different!

I suspect most folks will have, at some stage, encountered the organism pictured below.

It’s a slime mould.

These images are possibly the same species, which I suspect is Fuligo septica, a slime mould that goes by the unfortunate common name of Dog Vomit Slime Mould.

Slime moulds are remarkable organisms. They were once thought to belong to the fungi kingdom but are now classified in the kingdom Protista – they live their lives as single cells that mass together into large reproductive structures when food is in short supply. I found these two specimens about a week ago, the first on a layer of decomposing wood dust, the second on soil in a garden bed.

There is some terrific information on slime mould here at Fungi Map, while Wikipedia also provides a useful overview.

Slime mould #1, Newstead, 18th January 2020

Slime mould #2

Moolort Plains 6pm

Yesterday was unsettling. A dust cloud rolled in from the north-west during the afternoon and this is what the Moolort Plains looked like at 6pm.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle, clearly not enjoying the conditions, was sheltering on a low branch in a Grey Box before I unknowingly disturbed it. No late afternoon soaring circles today.

Looking north-east towards Mount Tarrengower

Wedge-tailed Eagle

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Starlings in a dust cloud … not quite a murmuration

Stranded Buloke

A peaceful time … at first

I visited the Rise and Shine (Zumpe’s Lane area) last evening – my first trip there for several weeks.

The reserve was virtually devoid of bird song when I arrived and I was feeling a little downcast, until a pair of Peaceful Doves started calling!

Things brightened up considerably as I moved west along Zumpe’s Lane and I finished up with a reasonable list for a one hour stroll. Along with the Peaceful Doves and a flock of Varied Sittellas I also ‘ticked’ – White-naped Honeyeater, White-browed Babbler, Little Eagle, Dusky Woodswallow, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater and Grey Fantail.

Peaceful Dove, Rise and Shine, 21st January 2020

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Varied Sittella

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The pollinators have finished, it’s time for leaf munchers and sap harvesters

With few plants flowering in our bush now, the pollinators have taken a back seat and my forays with the macro lens reveal other invertebrates feasting on our native vegetation.

Common at this time of year, but less so this year than in most, are Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bug nymphs (Amorbus sp.) Nymphs are juvenile stages which look like the adult, as opposed to larvae like maggots and caterpillars which look utterly different to their adult forms. Each stage of moulting the skin is referred to as an “instar”. One Amorbus species at our place has early instars that are brilliant orange with blue-grey edges. These are about 12mm long.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug instar (Amorbus sp)

Early stage Amorbus instar

Being bugs means they have tube mouth parts, which in the case of these bugs they insert into eucalypt stems to suck the sap.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug instar (Amorbus sp)

Inserting the tube

In the next few stages, the instars are less brilliantly coloured, but seem to have a pair of fake eyes on their abdomens. The bugs rely on smelly secretions to deter predators and are therefore fairly happy to sit still for photographs. They’ve yet to be upset enough to spray me.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug instar (Amorbus sp)

A later Amorbus instar

Beetles are also out and about, chewing happily on leaves. I found one tiny beetle, <4mm long, on a Grey Box leaf.

Shield Bug nymph

Beetle #1

I found another beetle with a very elongated thorax on a Golden Wattle leaf. I’ve not been able to work out what species it is.

Beetle

Beetle #2

Weevils are also beetles and they are also around feeding on eucalypt leaves.

Weevil

Weevil

A variety of ant species also seem to be harvesting things from the branches of shrubs and trees. Rhytidoponera ants (or Wrinkle ants) are common on our Grey Box suckers.

Rhytidoponera sp.

Rhytidoponera sp.

When I looked closely at some of the photos of this lady, she was carrying a small drop of fluid in her mandibles. As there’d been no rain or dew, I assume it may be some sap she’s gleaned from the plant.

Rhytidoponera sp.

With some precious liquid

Black-headed Sugar Ants (Camponotus nigriceps) have always seemed particularly beautiful to me, in temperament as well as appearance. This lady was so engrossed by whatever she was getting from this Grey Box that she was completely indifferent to the interference by a photographer trying to get a good angle.

Black-headed Sugar Ant (Camponotus nigriceps)

Black-headed Sugar Ant

Black-headed Sugar Ant (Camponotus nigirceps)

Up close

Of course, there will always be predators. This Praying Mantis nymph was patrolling a Golden Wattle by night.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis nymph

Praying Mantis

Telling me to go away

Diversity is good

Yesterday’s afternoon jaunt across the Moolort Plains was rewarded with a diversity of observations. My close-up views of a Horsfield’s Bushlark contrasted with frustratingly distant glimpses of a Spotted Harrier and a party of Black-tailed Native-hens around a rapidly shrinking pool along Boundary Gully.

Horsfield’s Bushlark, Moolort Plains, 19th January 2020

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Black-tailed Native-hens at Boundary Gully

Spotted Harrier @ Boundary Gully

Another flashback

A Red Wattlebird feeding on Red Ironbark in the home garden …New Year’s Day 2020.

Red Wattlebird (adult), Wyndham Street Newstead, 1st January 2020

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