Category Archives: Wattles

The wattles are out and so are the birds

The first burst of Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha flowering has occurred during the past week, a sure sign that the season has shifted. Flowering will reach a ‘crescendo’ in August. Rough Wattle Acacia aspera has also commenced flowering, but more on that in a forthcoming post.

A visit to the South German Track area at the weekend produced a number of highlights, including fleeting, close-up views of a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren gathering food and a most unusual find – a peacock tail feather suspended in the foliage of a Golden Wattle. I can only speculate about how it got there.

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Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 24th July 2022

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Brown-headed Honeyeater

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Eastern Spinebill

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Chestnut-rumped Heathwren

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Peacock feather

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Silvereye

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Bushland … wonderland

I observed my first Flame Robin for the season way back in late April.

There have been regular sightings since, but none so lucky as this … the male posed directly in front of me, one of several, while a female foraged in the mossbeds below.

Despite the cold and bleak conditions, the local bush is a wonderland at present.

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Flame Robin (adult male), Mia Mia Track, 28th June 2022

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Female Flame Robin

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Mini landscape … Honey Pots Acrotriche serrulata and fungus … Galerina … maybe? 

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Spreading Wattle Acacia genistifolia

On balance …

… it’s been a pleasant start to winter around Newstead.

While temperatures have hovered in the low teens over the past three weeks the compensation has been some lovely rain.

The local bush is quite busy and you can sense that many of our woodland bird species are on the cusp of breeding again. The first Golden Wattle flowers have appeared, only on a handful of plants, out of sync with those that will burst forth in late July.

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Golden Wattle, Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve, 13th June 2022

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Buff-rumped Thornbill

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Scarlet Robin (male)

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Scarlet Robin (female)

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

A home garden experiment

Some years ago I began experimenting with planting a number of non-local, indigenous plants in our home garden.

My choice of species was influenced by many years of traversing the landscapes of northern Victoria and admiration for some of the native plants, especially wattles, that characterise these places in the zone between home and the Murray River. This includes species such as Eumong Acacia stenophylla, Willow Wattle A.salicina, Yarran A.omalophylla, Black Box Eucalyptus largiflorens, and a number of others that I began planting around a decade ago.

Most of these plants have now established and thrived, with little or no attention. It represents my small effort to plan and plant for a future climate, one in which central Victoria will be hotter and drier than we have become accustomed to. At the same time I haven’t neglected some of the hardy local indigenous plants – Silver Banksia Banksia marginata, Lightwood A.implexa, Drooping Sheoak Allocasuarina verticillata and Buloke A.luehmannii, all of which are doing well in a changing climate.

Importantly, but hardly surprising, is that our local native birds are attracted to these plantings. A few minutes ago I took a break from the computer for a stroll through the garden … Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Red-browed Finch, Silvereye, Grey Fantail, New Holland Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill … all in and around some of these exotic new plantings as well as the local natives.

Home gardens can provide significant habitat for wildlife, in addition to a multitude of other benefits. Over time I predict we’ll start to increasingly see the use of some of these ‘dry country’ species in home gardens.

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Eumong Acacia stenophylla seed pods and foliage

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Lightwood Acacia implexa bark

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Silver Banksia Banksia marginata foliage

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Spotted Pardalote (male) in Eumong

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Male in a Silver Banksia

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… in a Willow Wattle

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Spotted Pardalote (female) in Silver Banksia

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Willow wattle flowers and foliage

Right on time

It’s become one of my annual rituals.

Each year, post Xmas, I pay a visit to a stand of Silver Wattles near Yandoit.

They are home to a colony of Common Imperial Blue Butterflies Jalmenus evagoras aka the Imperial hairstreak or simply the Imperial blue.

In common with many Australian butterflies this species has a fascinating and complex life history, of which Iridomyrmex ants play a key part. The larvae of this butterfly feed on the foliage of numerous species of acacias, locally I’ve only found them on Silver Wattle Acacia dealbata. The ants live in underground nests and emerge to provide protection for the caterpillars from predators and parasitoids. The reproductive success of the butterfly is significantly improved from this protection, meanwhile the ants profit from supping on sugary secretions produced by the larvae.

On most recent visits to the colony the adult butterflies have kept their wings folded. Yesterday however, was a cool morning and the butterflies were warming up – fully opening their wings to absorb the rays of the sun, displaying the brilliant metallic blue from which J.evagoras gets its common name.

You can learn more about the Common Imperial Blue Butterfly and its life history here and here.

The blog, Life in a Southern Forest, has a terrific story about the behaviour of the butterfly – click here.

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Imperial Blue Butterfly, Yandoit, 7th January 2022

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Mating

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Larva, pupae and ant attendants

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Pupae with cocooning larva at top

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Adult butterfly … showing some wear and tear

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Post mating

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Courtship behaviour

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Mating

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The magnificent Imperial Blue Butterfly

Making a meal of it

Woodland insectivores have been active in recent weeks.

Brown-headed Honeyeaters are currently feasting on lerp … also favourite tucker for Buff-rumped Thornbills.

Golden Wattle is flowering wonderfully at present, which in turn attracts a bevy of insects to feed on the flowers and foliage. If you look closely at the first three images of the Buff-rumped Thornbill below, a juicy green caterpillar can be seen  to the right of the thornbill. Moments after I captured the images the caterpillar was snatched from its hiding place amongst the wattle flowers. The Buff-rumped Thornbill then returned to searching for lerp amongst the  Yellow Gum saplings.

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Brown-headed Honeyeater, Welshman’s Reef, 25th August 2021

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Buff-rumped Thornbill

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Poking about in the Muckleford bush

Queen’s Birthday morning was perfect for poking about in the Muckleford bush.

Taking a well-trodden route that included South German, Bell’s Lane and Mia Mia Tracks I was rewarded with some nice observations.

The pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles were spotted on their overnight perch, contemplating their first sortie in search of a meal.

An early flowering Golden Wattle was something of a surprise, as was the opportunity to see both the Speckled Warbler and Rose Robin up-close.

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Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 14th June 2021

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Wedge-tailed Eagle (adult female)

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Adult male

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Speckled Warbler (male)

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Rose Robin (male)

Early mover …

The exception always proves the rule.

It’s notable to see a Golden Wattle flowering in early May … they typically start in the second week of July around Newstead.

Spreading Wattle has been flowering since February but is at its best over autumn.

The yellow hues of our honeyeaters are a nice complement to the golden spray of the wattles.

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Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 2nd May 2021

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Spreading Wattle

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Fuscous Honeyeater

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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White-naped Honeyeater

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

The wattle, the ant and the butterfly

The Imperial Hairstreak Butterfly Jalmenus evagoras, also known as the Imperial Blue, is a striking and fascinating species.

With a wide distribution along the east coast of Australia it can be found throughout the box-ironbark and damper forests, where it typically feeds on wattles, especially Silver Wattle locally.

Like many butterflies it has a complex and remarkable life-cycle. The adults lay eggs from late spring through to the autumn. It takes about 4 weeks from when the eggs hatch until they pupate and then butterflies emerge about a week later. Eggs that are laid late in the season are dormant over winter, then hatch in spring to release the first batch of larvae.

The Imperial Hairstreak has a fascinating mutualistic association with Iridomyrmex ants. Adult butterflies will purposefully select host plants with ants on which to lay their eggs. The ants attend the caterpillars and pupae, protecting them from predators and parasitoids such as wasps, while at the same time feeding on secretions from the larvae. Click here to learn more.

Imperial Hairstreak Butterfly, Coach Track, Yandoit, 19th December 2020

One of the caterpillars with Iridomyrmex ants in attendance

Spent cocoons

Caterpillars commencing pupation in a communal web

Underwing view

A fleeting glimpse of the spectacular upper-wings

What’s flowering this week?

Just a selection on what’s on offer in the local bushland at present.

Here’s hoping for a little rain … or a lot, over coming days.

Gold-dust Wattle, Fence Track, 20th September 2020

Shiny Everlasting

Waxlip Orchid

Gorse Bitter-pea and Waxlip Orchids

Murnong pair

Murnong and Hoverflies

Spiky Guinea-flower