This wonderful, massive River Red-gum was supporting a bevy of pardalotes this morning – Striated and Spotted Pardalotes were feasting on lerp and enjoying the first real sunshine for days.
River Red-gum , Loddon River @ Newstead, 1st July 2018
Male Spotted Pardalote
Female Spotted Pardalote
The male again!
Invertebrate life above the soil is a little harder to find as the weather cools, although there are still plenty of spiders and moths.
I found a paper wasp on the handle of our flywire door yesterday morning. Very cold, it wasn’t moving much. I shepherded it onto a Hardenbergia leaf and to my surprise it started enthusiastically drinking the dew.
A cold paper wasp
Having a good drink
I continued to wander around the garden and found a few Rhytodoponera ants on a Silver Wattle. These ants seem particularly fond of Silver Wattles. As I looked closely through the macro lens at one ant, I could see that she too was filling up on the previous night’s dew. I wasn’t sure how much was for her and whether she was going to get this load back to her sisters. Nothing was happening fast at this point!
Rhytodoponera with dew
Away from the dew and the insects, I also found this magnificent scorpion under a rock. She was pretty curled up and was not keen on the camera, but I think she was about 25 mm long.
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.
I have a habit of returning to the same places in the local landscape, often over successive days. One of the narrow tracks running west off Mia Mia Track is a personal favourite that I tend to visit at least once every fortnight. Two excursions this week, the first on Thursday and again last night produced a very different set of birds.
Brown Thornbills were ‘hiding’ during my first visit, but were the highlight under dull skies last night. Also of note were Buff-rumped Thornbill, White-eared Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin and a small flock of Rainbow Bee-eaters, none of which I’d observed the day before. The diverse understorey of wattles (especially the Rough Wattle), peas and heath are a key reason for this sites avian richness.
Brown Thornbill, Mia Mia Track, 16th March 2018
… and that leaf again!
I dragged myself away from the water last evening and ventured into the bush along Mia Mia Track.
It’s very, very dry!
There was reasonable numbers and variety of birds. Along with those shown below I also observed: Grey Shrike-thrush, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeater, Yellow Thornbill, Spotted and Striated Pardalote, Rufous Whistler and Little Eagle. Not too bad for a 30 minute walk.
Weebill, Mia Mia Track, 15th March 2018
This gall-ridden leaf caught my eye
White-throated Treecreeper (male)
Each year, at this time, I marvel at the sudden explosion of flowering on our local Grey Box Eucalyptus microcarpa.
This magnificent tree is one of the keys to the ecology of the box-ironbark ecosystem and its flowers are one of the main reasons for the diversity of nectar feeders that inhabit the region. Honeyeaters, lorikeets and (hopefully) migratory Swift Parrots depend on the resources created by Grey Box from now until late autumn.
Grey Box has been described as a pollinator generalist (see Wilson, 2002, p 67). It doesn’t produce the same large volumes of nectar as, for example, Yellow Gum – a species that is a magnet for birds, but Grey Box is apparently adapted for pollination by both birds and insects. Many honeyeaters are fond of insects as well as nectar so Grey Box is ‘just the ticket’ for these birds.
Grey Box flowers, Mia Mia Road, 2nd February 2018
Grey Box buds on the same tree
Grey Box woodland along Annand’s Lane on the edge of the Sandon State Forest
In recent days I’ve been watching both Rainbow Bee-eaters and Sacred Kingfishers catching insects in the vicinity of flowering Grey Box … fuelling up before their journey north. It’s a complex and marvellous ecosystem.
Sacred Kingfisher returning to the nest with an insect caught from amongst the nearby Grey Box
Reference: Jenny Wilson (2002) – Flowering Ecology of a Box-Ironbark Eucalyptus community, PhD thesis, Deakin University.
The Buloke Allocasuarina luehmannii is an iconic local tree – it can be found as single trees (usually) scattered through the box-ironbark country and as isolated and highly fragmented stands across the Moolort Plains. Buloke is listed as a threatened species in Victoria, while Buloke woodlands (as an ecological community) are nationally endangered.
A close looks at this remnant patch of Buloke – two living trees and a sadly fallen veteran – revealed a number of clumps of Buloke Mistloetoe Amyema linophylla, its glorious crimson flowers in fine display. Buloke Mistletoe is also listed as threatened in Victoria, not surprising given its almost obligate dependence on Buloke and the closely related Belah Casuarina pauper, a tree found in even more arid environments than ours!
Remnant Bulokes @ Joyce’s Creek, 21st January 2018
Buloke Mistletoe flowers
One of the dozen or so mistletoe clumps on the Buloke at left (above)
According to the Viridans database …
“Amyema linophylla is a mistletoe which is parasitic principally on two species of leafless tree; Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii) and Belah (Casuarina pauper). It has narrow, grey-green leaves, clusters of erect, red tubular flowers and white, fleshy fruit which are produced in late summer and autumn. Amyema is widespread in woodland vegetation of north-western Victoria where the rainfall is generally less than 500 mm a year. Despite its broad geographic range Amyema is never found in large numbers (often less than 10 in a population) and there are usually substantial distances between host trees.
Amyema linophylla is classified as vulnerable in Victoria because its numbers are significantly below what they would have been at the time of European settlement and more that 80% of the records are from roadsides, paddocks, other private land and public land not managed for conservation. The host species themselves were once much more abundant than they are today. With the development of agriculture in the low rainfall areas of Victoria Buloke and Belah were cut down for timber or firewood, as they were often the largest trees in the area. They were also removed because they occupied the most fertile of the soils in the drier ecosystems. Today more than 90% of the stands of Buloke and 60% of Belah are on unprotected public or private land. In most cases 25% or more of the understory plant species are non-natives.”