Category Archives: Flora

FOBIF AGM – The Merri Creek story

This year’s Friends of Box-Ironbark Forests AGM will be held at 7.30 pm Monday 10th July in the Ray Bradfield Rooms. Supper will be served and everyone is welcome. The speaker will be Brian Bainbridge, Ecological Restoration Planner, Merri Creek Management Committee.

His topic will be ‘Single species – many outcomes’.

Brian Bainbridge

Single species conservation projects can have wide-ranging benefits when pursued in a holistic manner. Projects to secure local populations of Matted Flax Lily and Plains Yam Daisy have led Merri Creek Management Committee to build a deeper understanding of the Merri Creek’s changing ecology and the potential for landscape-scale conservation. The projects have stimulated fresh approaches to engaging with community.

Plains Yam Daisy

Winter gold

I found the first flowers of Golden Wattle this morning … I’d be keen to hear how this magnificent shrub is faring elsewhere in the box-ironbark.

Golden Wattle, Demo Track, 8th July 2017

There was bird action as well – this male Spotted Pardalote in a party of four + Scarlet Robin, White-throated Treecreeper, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Grey Fantail and Yellow-faced Honeyeater providing lots of interest.

Spotted Pardalote in Red Box on Demo Track

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First day of winter … a highlight!

I hadn’t been out to the Rise and Shine for over a month … it was time for an excursion and the first day of winter was glorious.

The highlight was a party of Crested Shrike-tits. I watched them from close-up, foraging amongst the Long-leaved Box and Yellow Gums for at least half an hour. The birds were unconcerned about me – occasionally dropping almost to ground level as they ripped strips of bark from branches in search of their prey. One of my favourite woodland companions.

Crested Shrike-tit (male), Rise and Shine, 1st June 2017

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Crested Shrike-tit (female)

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Nature’s infinite variety

We were fortunate to enjoy a burst of autumn sunshine this morning. This was soon followed by a wintry blast to remind us that some bleak days are just around the corner. I headed out to the Spring Hill area in search of orchids and managed to find a few, including some dainty Tiny Greenhoods (pictured below), a few Parsons Bands and a single badly munched Autumn Greenhood.

Birds were few and far between but there is still the odd dragonfly and damselfly about to remind us of summer.

Tiny Greenhood Pterostylis parviflora, Spring Hill area, 6th May 2017

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Willie Wagtail along Mia Mia Track

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Wandering Ringtail Austrolestes leda

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Look and learn

It’s the little things in nature that often intrigue me the most.

At present the Drooping Sheoak in the churchyard next door is looking magnificent – the golden branchlets glowing in the late autumn sunshine. While looking closely at the tree I noticed lots of European Wasps, feeding along the branchlets, presumably gathering an exudate of some sort from the junctions between segments – this is actually where the tiny true leaves can be found.

Drooping Sheoak ‘foliage’

European Wasp feeding on sheoak foliage

A small flock of Weebills arrived and began hunting for prey … a wasp would be out of the question, but the birds happily gleaned tiny insects from the foliage, regularly darting out to flutter outside the canopy in typical Weebill fashion. I was surprised then to see one of the birds drop to the earth and snatch a fly. I can’t recall ever seeing a Weebill feeding anywhere other than amongst foliage and the couple of references I quickly looked at made no mention of this behaviour. I’d be interested to hear from readers about your observations.

Weebill with fly, Wyndham Street Newstead, 3rd May 2017

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Not what I was hoping for …

Over past weeks our local Yellow Gums have started to flower … but not the heavy blossoming that I was hoping for.

Rotunda Park is notable for its magnificent veteran Yellow Gums and in the past these have lured Swift Parrots to feed on the nectar during April as they arrived back on the mainland from their Tasmanian breeding grounds. In years of bountiful flowering the birds remained right throughout winter.

I fear that once again this year the paucity of flowering won’t be sufficient to encourage the parrots to pay anything more than a fleeting visit. With the Easter break promising excellent weather I’m hoping a few ‘swifties’ might be about.

Juvenile Red Wattlebird, Rotunda Park, 11th April 2017

Yellow Gum buds

Silvereye feeding on Box-thorn

Reflecting on a summer

by Patrick Kavanagh

As summer has drawn towards its end, the number of invertebrates in our bush at Strangways has been dwindling. But there are still some willing sitters for the macrophotographer’s lens. After reaching considerable numbers early in February, there are now only a few Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bugs Amorbus sp. around, including this nymph, which was not far from adult size. The bush has many webs of Jewel Spiders Austracantha minax and some of these might not be happy about it, but have offered a pretty detailed view of their spinnerets, palps and fangs. The gaudy caterpillar of a Tussock Moth Acyphas sp. does not give hints of the more subdued presentation of the adult moth to come. The tussocks of hair from which it takes its name are clear though, as are the two glands at the back that exude a secretion to protect from ants.

Reliable to find at this time are the Muscle Man Tree Ants Podomyrma adelaidae, so named as they live in trees and have well-developed leg muscles for all the vertical work they do. This crew lives in a branch of Long-leafed Box and there always seem a couple on guard duty at the entrance of the nest. To me they are sweet-looking ants and the creamy dots on either side of their abdomens complement their brown skins beautifully.

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Eucalypt Tip-wilter bug, Strangways, 25th February 2017

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Tussock Moth caterpillar, Strangways, 26th February 2017

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Jewell Spider

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Muscleman Tree-Ant

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