Category Archives: Events

Book launch: Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region

Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region, another wonderful FOBIF publication, will be officially launched this Saturday 28 April 2018.

The book is published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests in association with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and Connecting Country. George Broadway (President, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club) will launch the book in the Phee Broadway Theatre Foyer, Mechanics Lane, Castlemaine, on from 11 am.

Beautifully authored by Bernard Slattery, Ern Perkins and Bronwyn Silver, Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region will make a terrific companion to other FOBIF publications on two very different subjects – eucalypts and mosses. I love these publications … they have broad appeal to a curious and enthusiastic audience, further building an appreciation of ‘the local’ in central Victoria.

Gold-dust Wattle by Bronwyn Silver

A sample of one of the pages in the new guide … this one shows the flowers, phyllodes and seed-pods of Gold-dust Wattle.

If you can’t make the launch, the book will be available from Stoneman’s Bookroom from 28 April. You will also be able to buy it online from the FOBIF website. Cost is $10.

Out in the bush with cameras

Chris Tzaros and I have just completed another set of bird photography workshops in Newstead this weekend … #24 and #25 that we’ve held over the past six years. I’m stunned at the level of interest in bird photography and it seems to be growing daily.

As is nature’s way, whenever you organise an outdoor event the weather has its say. Our morning session coincided with a real downpour, 20mm of rain falling on a parched local landscape! This didn’t appear to ‘dampen’ the enthusiasm of a dedicated band of photographers as we huddled under the shelter at the Rise and Shine Nature Walk. Conditions brightened up in the afternoon and while birds were elusive we enjoyed glimpses of a good selection of woodland species along South German Track.

Chris with workshop participants from our PM session, South German Track, 24th March 2018

The ‘first’ Swift Parrot seen in the Muckleford bush this season!

Birds proved elusive on a damp day – this White-plumed Honeyeater was an exception

Bird photography workshops – 24th March 2018

Chris Tzaros and I will be running our next bird photography workshops on Saturday 24th March 2018. We still have some spots available and are happy to cater for all comers!

This will be workshop number 23 and we have more than 200 past participants out there in the landscape enjoying the combined passions of birding and photography.

For further details, including registration, click here.

Eastern Yellow Robin, Sandon State Forest, 14th December 2017

Barking Owls, Newstead, 31st October 2017

Rainbow Bee-eater, Sandon State Forest, 10th January 2018

Compulsory viewing

If you are anywhere near Newstead over the next few weeks then treat yourself to coffee and a bite at Dig Cafe.

While you are there you’ll be able to enjoy the most extraordinary exhibition by regular Natural Newstead blogger and macro-photographer extraordinaire, Patrick Kavanagh.

Patrick’s exhibition, “Small World – Visions from Another Dimension”, features subjects of amazing detail all taken at his home in nearby Strangways.

Patrick writes:

‘There is another world hidden from our unaided senses. A world of strange and wonderful animals – some could be from another planet, some are insects but look like sea shells. The damage inflicted by a caterpillar on a eucalypt leaf looks like a Renaissance window. A piece of abstract art turns out to be the wing of a moth. A tiny world, on a scale of millimetres, best seen through a macrophotographer’s lens.’

“Small World – Visions from Another Dimension” will be on at Dig Café, Newstead from Wednesday December 20th until late January. Here is a taster of some of Patrick’s images.

To sting, hide or mimic

The bush in our yard at Strangways is a constant source of invertebrate subjects at this time of year – and they reveal a range of strategies for protection.

Lifting a rock I found this impressive and somewhat intimidating little Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus).

Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus)

Marbled Scorpion

This magnificent specimen, although well-armed, seemed to hope the intruder – me – would not notice and leave her alone. As soon as my attention shifted, she slid under another rock. I wonder if the bulge in the midriff might be pregnancy.

Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus)

Marbled Scorpion #2

Marbled Scorpion up close

Plenty of eyes and quite a mouth

On  branch of a Silver Wattle, I found the youngest Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph I’ve met to date. Another case of “If I don’t move, you’ll think I’m part of this branch.”

Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph

Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph

Whilst looking at a Grey Box leaf stem, I noted what looked very like a little gall or lump of vegetation, only a couple of mm long. When I got the macro lens onto it, I could see it was a tiny Long-nosed Weevil (Haplonyx sp) that had tucked its nose under to look like a gall.

Long-nosed Weevil (Haplonyx sp?)

Long-nosed Weevil

In my last post , I incorrectly labeled this little bloke a Cricket nymph. A bit more research has revealed that it is a Gum Leaf Katydid nymph, probably the 1st or 2nd instar. Whilst these nymphs can’t fly, their defence is to look something like an ant or spider – unappetising or threatening to potential predators. As they develop, they end up with the superb eucalypt leaf disguise that I’m more familiar with for katydids. Thanks to for confirming the identity of this little cutie.

Katydid nymph

Gum Leaf Katydid nymph (Torbia viridissima) on Long-leafed Box

I’ve wondered where the term katydid comes from – it seems that it’s the sound made by an American species. I’ve also wondered about the extraordinary mouth parts of these animals. The little segmented “arms” coming off from around the mouth are called palps and are tasting organs. This one is perhaps tasting whatever it’s cleaning off its tiny feet.

Katydid nymph close up

A bit of cleaning.

PS: For those who enjoy photographs of tiny things, I will have an exhibition of macro photos “Small World” at Newstead’s Dig Cafe from December 19th. Hope you’ll be able to come along.

Speedwell, Wallaby Grass and some of their fans

It’s delightful to see some of the beautiful local plants in flower at present. Digger’s Speedwell Veronica perfoliata and Red-anther Wallaby Grass  Rytidosperma pallidum are not only pleasing to the human eye, they have quite a few invertebrate fans as well. The Wallaby Grass can perhaps only really be appreciated with a bit of magnification.

Red-Anther Wallaby Grass (Joycea pallida)

Red-Anther Wallaby Grass up close

By night, the Wallaby Grass provided a comfy bed for a native bee and a beetle.

A native bee sleeps on a Wallaby Grass flower

Native Bee Lassioglossum sp. perhaps sleeping on Red-Anther Wallaby Grass

Clerid Beetle (Eleale genus) on Red-anther Wallaby Grass

A beetle also rests on a Wallaby Grass flower

I was surprised when I had a close look at the Digger’s Speedwell to see how many Aphids were sucking sap from the flower stalks.


Aphids on Digger’s Speedwell


A hoverfly finds the flower already crowded

Native bees are really enjoying the abundance of the Speedwell flowers. I think these are Small Metallic-banded Bees Lassioglossum sp. but I’m happy to be corrected. Myriad Sweat Bees managed to avoid my camera, alas.

Bees on Diggers Speedwell

Bees on Digger’s Speedwell

Bee on Diggers Speedwell

An abundance of pollen.

On a Long-leafed Box sucker, I also found this tiny cricket nymph.

Katydid nymph up close

Cricket nymph

PS: For those who enjoy photographs of tiny things, I will have an exhibition of macro photos “Small World” at Newstead’s Dig Cafe from December 19th. Hope you’ll be able to come along!

November workshops … a few spots left

Chris Tzaros and I have still got a few spots left in our Spring Bird Photography workshops, to be held in Newstead on Saturday 18th November.

Click here if you like to find out more about the workshops or email me if you require further information or would like to book.

Barking Owls, Newstead, 31st October 2017

Nankeen Night-herons on the Loddon River @ Newstead, 31st October 2017

Red-rumped Parrot (male), Loddon River @ Newstead, 31st October 2017