The bush around the Mia Mia is very quiet at present with bird numbers lower than I can recall since the Millennium drought.
Nonetheless there is plenty to see if you take your time and stay alert.
Jacky Winter, Mia Mia Road, 14th February 2018
aka Jacky Lizard
I was intrigued by this Golden Orb-Weaver, attended by two males … I hadn’t realised that this occurred until today!
The highlight was bumping into a couple of researchers from Monash University on my way home. They had just caught an already banded Eastern Yellow Robin as part of ongoing studies into the genetics and biology of this beautiful woodland bird.
Eastern Yellow Robin … a recapture about to be released
There is quite an abundance of Praying Mantises at our place at present. Many are still nymphs and I’ve seen some that are only a couple of centimetres long.
Praying Mantis adult on Shiny Everlastings doing some night hunting
Nymph by night on a Golden Wattle
But I found myself wondering why they seem to have little pupils that looked at me in whichever angle I was viewing the insect.
Garden Praying Mantis nymph up close
Someone suggested that I look up the term pseudopupil. It does make a big difference knowing the right term to follow up! It turns out that when you look at a compound eye, the little eye sections or ommatidia that you are looking at are absorbing light. The others are reflecting it back at the observer. So the ones that the animal is seeing you with are dark.
Garden Praying Mantis nymph ready for action.
I’ve found these to be most enjoyable to photograph, not only because they look fantastic, but they are so curious. Quite a few have jumped onto my camera whilst being photographed. One that I was photographing a few weeks back gave the appearance of scratching its chin and then the top of its head as it tilted its tiny head from side to side trying to work me out. Fair enough too!
Garden Praying Mantis nymph – curious and curiouser?
I think the last shot is one of my all time favourites.
My exhibition of macrophotography at Dig Cafe in Newstead is finishing at the end of business on Sunday 28th January.
On 21st January 2017 I noticed a cocoon on Newstead Natives’ smaller greenhouse, posted a photo of it on the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Facebook page and people kindly identified it as being made by the caterpillar of an Australian Faggot Casemoth.
female Australian Faggot Case Moth cocoon (Clania ignoblis) 21 January 2017
Exactly 12 months later I notice a similar structure has been built on my nursery trolley! It lacks the one long twig at bottom.
male Australian Faggot Case Moth cocoon (Clania ignoblis), 19 January 2018
Anthea Fleming said, “The long twig (on the case on the greenhouse) is provided by female so winged male can land on it and visit for mating – she drops eggs from her case and then dies. The second case (on nursery trolley) is a male’s – so no long twig. During the larval phase they move about quite a lot. Pupating cases may stay a long time”.
I wondered why the creature built onto man-made things and not onto trees (which are plentiful here at Newstead)? Madeleine Nayru says, “As far as I know there’s not really much research on why/how they choose where to pupate. There’s some suggestion that man-made structures often have less airflow and activity from other animals, and no growth that could disturb the pupa, but really we don’t know. Fun side fact though, there’s been research that has found moths and butterflies maintain memories from when they were caterpillars”.
Much like in the ‘real world’, in the bush the good work is largely done quietly and without fanfare.
This White-plumed Honeyeater was one of a small party feeding on River Red-Gum lerp at a site in Green Gully. I was entranced by the dexterity of the birds as they systematically worked through the fresh new growth to feed on the tiny sugary lerp (the intricate casings of psyllid insects). Many local forest and woodland areas have been hit by significant lerp damage in the past six months. Healthy populations of insects gleaners, such as pardalotes, smaller lorikeets and honeyeaters play a major role in reducing psyllid impact as part of the natural functioning of local ecosystems.
White-plumed Honeyeater, Green Gully, 16th January 2018
II – look closely to see a tiny lerp casing at the tip of the honeyeater’s bill
Our beautiful Shiny Everlastings, Xerochrysum viscosum, have mostly finished flowering, but this heralds a new expression of their beauty. Perhaps only appreciated at higher magnification. As the seeds are carried off from the remains of the flower by the wind-catching pappus, they have an elegance all their own.
Shiny Everlasting seeds about to ride the wind
Our Magenta Storksbills Pelargonium rodneyanum have also set seed, again with an impressive aid to flight and corkscrew, which I presume drives the seed into the soil on landing.
Magenta Storksbill seed
On the same Silver Wattle that I recently found an Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph ( https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/to-sting-hide-or-mimic/ ) I found this empty husk, the nymph off to life as it’s next instar.
Acacia Horned Treehopper skin
Also grazing on the vegetation in the front yard was a later instar of the Gum Leaf Katydid that I posted pictures of a few weeks back ( https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/to-sting-hide-or-mimic/ ). This one was on the now empty flower heads of an Austrostipa grass. This katydid is still a nypmh as the wings are not fully formed and the animal relied totally on camouflage for safety. Also note the long antennae, which is a feature of katydids.
Gum Leaf Katydid
Similar in size and strategies to the Katydid is this Gum Leaf Grasshopper nymph. Again its wings are underdeveloped and it relies on its superb camouflage for safety. Note the short antenna compared to the Katydid.
Gum Leaf Grasshopper
PS Many thanks to Geoff for his post about my macrophotography exhibition at Dig Cafe in Newstead. The exhibition is on until January 31st.
On December 29th 2010 I wrote about a colony of Common Imperial Blue butterflies at Yandoit.
A couple of days ago, almost seven years later to the day, I dropped by on a trip south to see how they were faring. The air around the copse of Silver Wattles was delightfully alive with these remarkable butterflies, with pairs mating and ants in attendance around the pupae. You can read here, at the Strathbogie Ranges – Nature View blog about their fascinating life history.
Common Imperial Blues, Yandoit, 22nd December 2017
A cluster of pupae with attendant ants
This copse of Silver Wattles is home to the colony
If you are anywhere near Newstead over the next few weeks then treat yourself to coffee and a bite at Dig Cafe.
While you are there you’ll be able to enjoy the most extraordinary exhibition by regular Natural Newstead blogger and macro-photographer extraordinaire, Patrick Kavanagh.
Patrick’s exhibition, “Small World – Visions from Another Dimension”, features subjects of amazing detail all taken at his home in nearby Strangways.
‘There is another world hidden from our unaided senses. A world of strange and wonderful animals – some could be from another planet, some are insects but look like sea shells. The damage inflicted by a caterpillar on a eucalypt leaf looks like a Renaissance window. A piece of abstract art turns out to be the wing of a moth. A tiny world, on a scale of millimetres, best seen through a macrophotographer’s lens.’
“Small World – Visions from Another Dimension” will be on at Dig Café, Newstead from Wednesday December 20th until late January. Here is a taster of some of Patrick’s images.