Winter deprives the macrophotographic addict of many subjects, although spiders are always easy to find. But lifting rocks is a pretty good way of finding some sedate sitters, even if it means rolling around on the damp ground trying to get a good angle. I found a few treats yesterday and one very special target that had evaded my lens thus far.
It all started close to our back door. The first rock that I lifted had numerous tiny (1-2mm), pale, slow-moving insects that looked disturbingly like termites (very close to the house). Even with reading glasses and a good light I couldn’t pick it – only the wonderful Canon MP-E65 supermacro lens showed me the comforting view of these ants. They were scurrying as best as their cold bodies would to store their precious eggs.
Scouring Alex Wild’s great web site on ants, as well as google and Antwiki led me to believe they might be Doleromyrma. Any better identification would be much appreciated. I know from some ordinary tail-end shots that they don’t have an acidopore.
Another rock further in the bush at our place showed a busy nest of ants that look like ones previously identified as Rhytidoponera after a previous post on this blog. According to Antwiki, they will often nest under rocks and forage in trees, so this fits. They also mostly breed without queens, but workers will mate to produce a female brood. Happy to be corrected if I’ve got this wrong.
Under the same rock was this curious animal, about 15mm long and happily munching on the decaying material under the rock.
What do humans call me?
But above all, I was thrilled to find what I consider to be one of the most beautiful animals of our bush, a Thick-tailed (or Barking) Gecko, hiding under a large flat leftover paver in our backyard. Can’t wonder too much about the scientific name for this one – Underwoodisaurus milii.
I observed a fascinating little incident yesterday afternoon at the Rise and Shine.
My eye was drawn initially to a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, fossicking in a crack in the trunk of a eucalypt. A couple of times the bird fluttered quickly away before returning … a Yellow-footed Antechinus bouncing along the trunk causing it to depart. I watched the honeyeater for nearly 30 minutes as it kept returning to the same site, to probe for whatever it was after.
At first I thought it was gathering nesting material but it never left with any bark in its bill so I remain puzzled about its purpose. It didn’t seem to be catching insects so I can only surmise it was feeding on sap from a wound inside the crevice. Eventually the antechinus popped out into the late afternoon sunshine to complete an intriguing half-hour.
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Rise and Shine, 30th June 2017
A nocturnal venture into the bush at our place at Strangways at the moment means encountering a myriad of tiny spiders. Some, like this Crab Spider (about 10mm long including legs) pretend to be a bit of plant matter hanging in the web as soon as my light hits them.
This slightly larger green spider was too intent on wrapping up its prey to be bothered by the paparazzi.
Many of the spiders in the Golden Wattles at the moment, are however much smaller – a millimetre or even less in length.
A tiny spider with Golden Wattle flower bud
What did surprise me recently though, was the number of tiny midges that I at first assumed were trapped in the tiny webs of these arachnids. But as soon as I got too close, they would fly off. It seemed that they were using the webs at least for perching. But is there some other purpose? I’d appreciate any information about why they might choose to linger on the trap of a predator. I think they are midges rather than mosquitoes as their back legs are down. And I think the feathery antennae on this one mean it’s a male.
By day, there have been quite a few small black wasps on both Golden Wattle and Cassinia arcuata bushes and there have been a few Eucalyptus Weevils about.
Wasp on Golden Wattle
Another mystery for us was a strange looking multi-legged animal in the tub in our laundry. We fished it out with a Grey Box leaf and having no idea what would be an appropriate habitat, took some pics of it on the leaf before letting it go in the garden. Typing “bug with 15 pairs of legs” into Google quickly identified it as a House Centipede. It seems it would have been more accurate to photograph it in the house – their preferred habitat in which they hunt other invertebrates. There are native species, but I think this is the introduced one, Scutigera coleoptrata. We don’t know if it was living at our place or came back with our washing from a recent camping trip in NSW. A striking photographic subject even if it shouldn’t be here.
The bush is alive with Yellow-footed Antechinus at the moment. These tiny carnivorous marsupials have featured regularly on the blog, generally snapped while chasing birds at favourite spots such as the Mia Mia or Rise and Shine. Usually seen as singles I was fascinated to watch these two individuals apparently interacting during a visit to the Rise and Shine over the weekend.
While watching the first animal pop in and out of a ground level hollow, a second appeared and followed the first inside the hollow, only to reappear moments later and resume hunting on the woodland floor. Yellow-footed Antechinus usually mate in winter so I suspect these two are youngsters from last season embarking on a frenzied autumn of action.
Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 19th February 2017
With the warm – well, actually hot! – weather at this time of year, our local bushland is fairly fizzing with the sound of cicadas.
We have several species locally, and I wrote a post a while ago attempting to identify each by their calls. The Redeye, Psaltoda moerens, the largest of them, is quite characteristic and reasonably well known. It is easily recognisable by its song, which builds to a crescendo of revving and yodeling buzzes.
But more common are the medium-sized cicadas of the Pauropsalta family; P. rubristrigata, and the smaller Black Squeaker, P. encaustica. En mass, they fill the bush with that persistent zizzing and fizzing that we hear. Heard up close, each species has quite distinct calls, with individuals giving quite a degree of variety, from steady buzzing to more rhythmical patterns such as “ch-ch-cher, ch-ch-cher”.
I realise it is unnecessary, given how ubiquitous they are now, but here is a recording of our local multi-species cicada chorus.
… and some images of a P. rubristrigata I came across the other morning. They are usually quite wary, so nice to get these close ups. Notice the red hind border of the abdominal segments.
No, I’m not referring to some of our more jovial community members, I’m actually talking here about Litoria peronii, or Peron’s tree frog, colloquially known as the maniacal cackling frog, for reasons obvious to anyone who’s familiar with their call.
Heard on warm spring and summer nights, cacklers are distinctive and, well, yes, a bit maniacal. Although Geoff has written about them being in the area, in seventeen years of living in the bush at Strangways, I’ve never heard a single one. Not a cackle. Until this spring, when unexpectedly, I heard not one but several chortling away by our dam.
Frog movements are perplexing. Where have they come from? Chris Johnston has had them at Green Gully only in the last five years, and I don’t remember them at all when I used to live over that way. So where have they appeared from? Are they gradually dispersing westwards? Is this a regular fluctuation in response to climatic conditions, or a unique population drift?
If you’ve heard cacklers locally, I’d be curious to know. Maybe they’re far more common than I’d thought.
And to help you identify them, here is a recording of our new riotous residents on our Strangways dam. You can hear the cackler almost immediately, and a second one takes over calling after a few minutes. This was recorded during spring, and you can also hear pobblebonks (Limnodynastes dumerilii), brown tree frogs (Litoria ewingii) (“weep-eep-eep-eep”, one quietly and occasionally in the background) and a chorus of brown froglets (crinia parinsignifera) (“squelch”ing calls, one quite close at beginning).
I rushed to make this recording the first night I heard them, being enthusiastically attacked by mosquitoes in the process (remember them?!). I needn’t have bothered. Our cacklers are still calling now in January, when most other frog species have fallen silent.