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.
Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 2nd May 2021
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
Caterpillars commencing pupation in a communal web
A fleeting glimpse of the spectacular upper-wings
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
Gorse Bitter-pea and Waxlip Orchids
Murnong and Hoverflies
The local bush hasn’t looked as good for years … of course memory does play tricks, but it’s a cracker of a spring.
Healthy shrubby understorey is a key driver of bird populations and there has been a steady recovery in some areas of the Muckleford bush since the Millennium drought broke in 2010. Rough Wattle Acacia aspera is one of the plants priming this resurgence. In full flower it’s home to a myriad of insects and this of course brings the insectivorous birds to feast and breed.
Hooded Robins are competing at present with a host of other woodland birds for their share. The Eastern Yellow Robin (pictured below) was chasing the Hooded Robin pair in a minor territorial dispute, before all resumed regular duties.
Rough Wattle, Mia Mia Track, 12th September 2020
Female Hooded Robin with nest-building material
Hooded Robin pair
Male Hooded Robin
Eastern Yellow Robin … on the lookout
If you are fortunate enough to be able to do so it’s a wonderful time to be in the bush.
We are truly on the cusp of spring – flowering wattles and robins building nests. At present Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha, Spreading Wattle A.genistifolia and Rough Wattle A. aspera, are all in flower.
Meanwhile the Eastern Yellow Robins are putting the finishing touches on a nest – the unbanded female is doing the ‘heavy lifting’ while the banded male is hanging around to offer morsels of reward.
Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 31st July 2020
Eastern Yellow Robin (female) with cobwebs
Adding the cobwebs to the rim of the nest
Using the wing to shape the bowl
The male with a courtship offering
The female, post bath, back at the nest
Golden Wattle has been flowering for a couple of weeks now … a clear sign that spring is just around the corner.
Golden Wattle, Rise and Shine, 17th July 2020
It provided the backdrop for a nice selection of birds at the Rise and Shine on Friday evening … a small flock of Swift Parrots zipped through, a lone Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling and a pair of Hooded Robins the complement for those featured below.
Varied Sittella acrobatics
While they can be seen locally in all seasons, for me at least, the White-eared Honeyeater is a winter bird.
It is found throughout the box-ironbark country, but also further north in dry mallee environments as well as tall forests along the Great Divide and all the way to the coast. Often regarded as sedentary I certainly see it in greater numbers during the cooler months, perhaps birds from further south enjoying a winter break!
It is a curious species and will often join mixed-species feeding flocks of insectivores – the individual pictured here was one of a trio with a group of Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills, a Grey Fantail and some Weebills that had congregated in a patch of Hedge Wattle.
White-eared Honeyeater, Clydesdale, 20th June 2020
Brown Thornbill in Hedge Wattle
Update: Suggestions for the mystery feather include … Square-tailed Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Southern Boobook, Powerful Owl and Tawny Frogmouth. Nothing definitive as yet but will keep you posted.
Late yesterday I ventured to a favourite spot on river – an area I call ‘The Reserve’, where the Muckleford Creek meets the Loddon River.
Newstead Landcare has been doing a great job of restoration in this area, planting a variety of local small trees, shrubs and grasses. These plantings are doing well in their own right, as well as suppressing weeds such as blackberry. A Eastern Yellow Robin perching in a Silver Wattle in dappled sunlight was the highlight of the day.
Eastern Yellow Robin, Loddon River Reserve, 22nd March 2020
Now to the puzzle.
I found this feather the day before near Bruce’s track. It has me baffled, apart from some confidence that it belongs to a raptor. The dimensions are 140mm from the tip to the base of the shaft and 75mm wide. It feels as though it’s too wide to belong to a diurnal raptor, but I’d be interested in readers thoughts.
Who am I?
We’re heading towards autumn with the recent rain and cooler nights a sign of pleasant days to come.
I’ve spotted a few Grey Currawongs recently in the Muckleford bush and last evening came across a youngster, calling expectantly to an accompanying parent. The yellow gape of the juvenile is evident in the images below, while the adult looks a little ragged – the result of post-breeding moult.
Spreading Wattle Acacia genistifolia is now flowering, adding a welcome touch of colour to the dry bush. This species usually starts flowering in January and will continue through till late autumn.
Adult Grey Currawong, South German Track, 8th February 2020
Juvenile Grey Currawong
Adult Grey Currawong … in moult
On recent nights’ excursion into the bush, there have been a few beetles to be found. On new shoot of Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), a small Leaf Beetle, about 10mm long.
Nearby, on another Grey Box sucker, a somewhat larger beetle.
I also found a beautiful Ladybird on a Golden Wattle.
I have to say that, although the invertebrate numbers have lifted a little with the onset of Spring, it is still harder to find subjects than in previous years. I assume this is the result of the dry conditions.
On checking on the ever-reliable Shiny Everlastings in our bush during the daytime, I was pleased to find this tiny wasp.
As I kept watching, she seemed to be laying eggs in the flower. The flowers she was most interested in had brown discolourations in the central flower parts. I’m not sure if a diseased flower attracts the wasp, or wasp have changed the flower.
Laying in the central flowers