Category Archives: Eucalypts

Same place, different faces

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

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… and that leaf again!

Bark, twig and leaf

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

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This gall-ridden leaf caught my eye

White-throated Treecreeper (male)

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Grey Box – a local marvel

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

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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.

Not just bark

The heat at this time of year produces some amazing bushland effects, especially with the bark on our local Yellow Gums. During a run of very hot days long strips of bark, grey-blue on the outside and orange on the inside, peel away to reveal the classic ‘look’ of the Yellow Gum aka White Ironbark. The accumulation of bark on the forest floor is a key driver of the ecology of this landscape – Yellow-footed Antechinus are one of the animals to profit and not surprisingly are abundant where there is good cover of fallen bark.

Yellow Gum, Mia Mia Track, 13th January 2018

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Yellow Gum bark on the forest floor, Mia Mia Track

Yellow Gums, South German Track

Red Box … not to be outdone!

Yellow-footed Antechinus on South German Track

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Historical marker

Calm evenings are a wonderful time to visit Cairn Curran. This set was observed as I sat above the reservoir at Joyce’s Creek earlier in the week. The site is traced by a ragged line of dead River Red-gums that mark the original course of the creek – a reminder of a past landscape.

Looking north-east along the original course of Joyce’s Creek, 10th January 2018.

Australasian Darter (female), Joyce’s Creek @ Cairn Curran, 10th January 2018

Australasian Darter (male)

Female Australasian Darter in level flight

Great Cormorant

Whistling Kite

A New Year special

Over the years I’ve found many nests of the Sacred Kingfisher, but this is the first time I’ve ever managed to spy the eggs.

Unusually this nest is below ground level, in a River Red Gum hollow on the edge of an eroded gully in the Mia Mia. The eggs were nestled safely in a bed of powdered wood, carefully prepared by the adult kingfishers.

What a wonder to catch a glimpse into the life of this beautiful bird.

Sacred Kingfisher nest with four eggs, Mia Mia Track area, 31st December 2017

The female incubating

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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 https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/speedwell-wallaby-grass-and-some-of-their-fans/ , 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 bowerbird.org.au 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.