Nymphs, weevils and invertebrate numbers

In parallel with Geoff’s observations about low bird numbers, I’ve been finding it quite a challenge to get insect and spider subjects for macrophotography. This seems to be a phenomena in dry seasons and is not surprisingly reflected in fewer small birds that would feed on these insects.

There are a few Tartessini leafhopper nymphs on eucalypt leaves, but where I’d find at least half a dozen in a good year, I’m lucky to find one this year. They usually turn their spiny rumps towards the camera, presumably to present a spiky, unappetising view to predators, so I was pleased to get this one to “look” at the camera for quite a sweet portrait.

Spiny-legged Leafhopper nymph

Leafhopper nymph

This year, I have found a different species of leafhopper nymph, with long tails that they seem to use to spring away. The ones I’ve seen all have fluffy white or cream material on them which I wonder might be for camouflage

Leafhopper nymph

Leafhopper nymph 1

Leafhopper nymph

Leafhopper nymph 2

I photographed this weevil on a Grey Box, but didn’t notice the lumps on its head until I looked at the image on my computer.

Weevil

Weevil

One insect that seems to be abundant at present is the Garden Katydid. Numerous nymphs of this species are on our eucalypts at present. You can tell they are nymphs by their undeveloped wings. Their first line of defence is their camouflage, but they are very good at jumping away when they’ve had enough attention.

Katydid nymph (Caedicia sp?)

Garden Katydid nymph

Their effect on the leaves of this Grey Box sucker is a bit less attractive.

Katydid nymph (Caedicia sp?)

Katydid feeding on Grey Box

Katydid nymph (Caedicia sp?)

Katydid nymph up close

Keeping an eye on bird numbers

Following yesterday’s post regarding the apparent decline in bird numbers in our local bush, I’ve received a number of comments suggesting that my observation reflects a more general pattern across the central Victoria. It will be important to see what happens over coming months, as I recall a similar pattern during the Millennium drought, which was followed by an encouraging ‘bounce back’ following good rainfall in 2010/11. Yesterday afternoon I visited a favourite waterhole in Providence Gully. It was reasonably active with a number of different honeyeaters – White-plumed, Brown-headed, Yellow-faced, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous along with Rufous Whistler, Mistletoebird, Red-browed Finch and White-browed Babbler all present in and around the water.

Grey Kangaroo, Providence Gully, 6th January 2019

Red-browed Finches

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Immature White-plumed Honeyeater

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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Sitting duskies

It troubles me to realise how quiet the local bush is at present. Typically at this time of year bird activity is stilled somewhat, especially after a heatwave, but I can’t recall it ever being so quiet. The absence of honeyeaters is obvious, especially in the Muckleford bush. Small bush dams would normally attract good numbers of Fuscous, Yellow-tufted, Brown-headed and White-naped Honeyeaters over summer, but this year they are in worryingly small numbers.

Yesterday afternoon along Bell’s Lane Track a couple of families of Dusky Woodswallows were the highlight of a disappointing excursion. I did see some Grey Currawongs and heard Black-chinned Honeyeaters.

Juvenile Dusky Woodswallows, Bell’s Lane Track, 5th January 2019

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Meet the patron saint of birds … in a heat wave

The old saying goes that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your neighbours … I guess we just got lucky!

Pictured below is St. Geordie – the patron saint of birds in a heat wave, keeping our new family of Grey Fantails cool in the 44C heat. The parents and three newly fledged youngsters were doing it tough today, but with Geordie in their corner at least they’ll have a sporting chance.

The ‘patron saint of birds in a heatwave’ … lives right next door!

One of the three Grey Fantails … just fledged, Wyndham Street Newstead, 4th January 2019

Fledgling #2

One of the parents … looking anxious and tattered

Adult and fledgling Grey Fantails

Adult Grey Fantail

Smorgasbord

Rainbow Bee-eaters are renowned for their varied diet of ‘flying things’. This set is from the last day of 2018.

Rainbow Bee-eater with ‘March fly’, Sandon State Forest, 31st December 2018

This time with a cicada

… and lastly with what I think is a bee

Sweet agitation

The sound of the Willie Wagtail is synonymous with the Australian bush, found in almost all habitats across the entire continent. For Indigenous Australians it has a special significance, both venerated and feared at the same time. Not surprisingly it features prominently in aboriginal folklore and language, known typically by local names that mirror its voice of ‘sweet agitation’.

While I’m sure the Dja Dja Wurrung people of central Victoria had a special name for the Willie Wagtail (help please!), the neighbouring Tjapwurrung call it tjerrap tjerrap, while the Wiradjuri further north know it as djirrijirri.

I was surprised to see this pair yesterday evening along the Loddon tending a nest. It is at least their second nesting effort for the season and the parents were not happy with my brief intrusion, displaying in typical fashion while I made my images and departed. Willie Wagtails almost always nest close to water, very sensible in this hot, dry landscape of ours.

Willie Wagtail, Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd January 2019

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References

  1. Dialects of Western Kulin, Western Victoria Yartwatjali, Tjapwurrung, Djadjawurrung, Barry J. Blake, La Trobe University
    2011. Click here to read.
  2. Wesson, S. (2001) Aboriginal flora and fauna names of Victoria: As extracted from early surveyors’ reports. Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, Melbourne. Click here to read.

Worth the wait

I try to get out with the camera most days. It’s rare to return home without at least one ‘story’.

Late yesterday afternoon I ventured out to the Rise and Shine with the dashboard thermometer showing 35C … not ideal conditions for birding.

I sat for nearly two hours beside a small pond in the reserve, expecting at least a few visitors to drop by for a drink. Alas, the bush was disturbingly quiet. The only birds heard were Weebill, Striated Pardalote, Fuscous Honeyeater and Rufous Whistler, with not one bird arriving at the pool. As I turned to head home I spotted a raptor about 100 metres off, high above the canopy. It was a Square-tailed Kite, not actively hunting at canopy height as is its usual method, instead circling lazily on a late afternoon thermal. This made my visit well and truly worthwhile.

Square-tailed Kite, Rise and Shine, 1st January 2019

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