Category Archives: Fauna other than birds

Possum magic

I don’t do much night photography but it’s always fun. Last night, a brief visit to Rotunda Park produced a suite of opportunities to observe and photograph some of the resident Brush-tailed Possums.

The abundance of ‘brushies’, along with Ring-tailed Possums, Sugar Gliders and rabbits is a good reason for the Barking Owls to stay around over the summer.

Brush-tailed Possum, Rotunda Park Newstead, 17th November 2017

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Barking Owl, Rotunda Park Newstead, 17th November 2017

Tuan Talk

This Thursday evening 19th October Newstead Landcare Group is hosting a presentation by Jess Lawton. Jess is studying the Tuan or Brush-tailed Phascogale, a threatened and declining species of the Box-Ironbark country. Jess will describe her research for a Ph.D. which aims is to see if the occurrence of the Brush-tailed Phascogale in a modified landscape relates to patch size and patch connectedness.

 

Tuan in nest box at Welshmans Reef photo by Jess LawtonTuan in nest box at Welshmans Reef, photo by Jess Lawton.

Jess’ talk will start at 8pm at Newstead Community Centre and go til 9pm with plenty of time for your questions. All are welcome to attend! Gold coin donations would be appreciated.

The presentation will be followed by brief AGM and supper.

 

Greenhouse as habitat

Sometimes in my native nursery at Newstead the plants provide habitat before they even leave the greenhouse! This morning I found a 4cm long, smooth frog. Looking in Chris Tzaros’ ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ I think it is Southern Brown Tree Frog, but am happy to be corrected.  The inner thighs are orangey in colour and eyes have slits not a crosses. I am more certain of the plant id: Montia australasica (White Purslane).little frog in pot of Montia australasica - White Purslane, 11 Oct 2017

Reliable Winter shelter

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.

Doleromyrma?

Doleromyrma? #1

Doleromyrma?

Doleromyrma? #2

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.

Rhytidoponera?

Rhytidoponera?

Under the same rock was this curious animal, about 15mm long and happily munching on the decaying material under the rock.

Under a rock - Soldier Beetle larva

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.

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Thick-tailed Gecko

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Is this my best angle?

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Or this?

A well-spent half hour

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

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Yellow-footed Antechinus

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Treading a fine line in the time of tiny spiders

by Patrick Kavanagh

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.

Crab Spider

Crab Spider

This slightly larger green spider was too intent on wrapping up its prey to be bothered by the paparazzi.

Crab Spider perhaps?

Many of the spiders in the Golden Wattles at the moment, are however much smaller – a millimetre or even less in length.

Tiny spider and Golden Wattle flower bud

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.

Midge on spiders web

Midge?

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

Wasp on Golden Wattle

Eucalyptus Weevil

Eucalyptus Weevil

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.

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House Centipede

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House Centipede

Two for the price of one

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.

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Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 19th February 2017

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