There was quite a variety of treats in store for me on a trip back from Newstead to our place at Strangways last Saturday. First up was a beautiful foggy scene on the flats of the Jim Crow Creek.
Morning fog on Jim Crow Creek
As I drove up our lane, I was delighted to see a pair of Restless Flycatchers Myiagra inquieta hovering and catching insects. They have been a bit shy of the cameraman until this day when they let me get to within 5 metres whilst they hunted in the winter sun.
Restless Flycatcher I
Restless Flycatcher II
Catching spiders as well as flies
A pair of Jacky Winters Microeca fascinans was also hunting along the fence line.
When I got home after quite some time rolling on the ground getting shots of the birds, for some unknown macrophotographic reason I put on my reading glasses and had good close look at the stone path to our door. I was impressed to find numerous tiny mites with white-spotted black bodies and orange legs. They were from 0.5-1mm long. And with them were some velvety looking grey grubs with six legs and again only 0.5-1mm long. They were quite challenging photographic subjects and I will keep working to try to get some good photos of them. At first I thought the grey ones might be tiny Velvet Worms, but from my reading they would need more legs to qualify. The people at bowerbird.org.au have identified it as a springtail, hexapods once classed as insects, but with internal mouths. The reading I’ve done says that they live on fungi, microbes and other material in the leaf litter. I wonder if the mites could be Trombidiformes, but would really appreciate any help with identification of either. The grains in the sandstone path give an indication of their size, or lack thereof.
Lifting a rock on our place at Strangways, will often show signs of those who live under it, but often they scurry off before I can get a good look at them, let alone a photo. I was pleased then with the variety of species that I found under one rock recently. The most obvious denizens of this netherworld were some Gold-tailed Toothless Bull Ants. It wasn’t until I’d found a match on bowerbird.org.au that I noticed the absence of serrations on the inside of the mandibles, hence the toothless descriptor. I’d never thought that a Bull Ant could be toothless!
Golden-tailed Toothless Bull Ant
Golden-tailed Toothless Bull Ant
I wondered if it was a coincidence that the rock with the ants had so many other species to look at or whether something about the nest meant that the other invertebrates could hang around.
One tiny ant co-inhabitant was a tiny pale centipede-like creature – a symphylan or pseudocentipede. This is one of the many animals who live on decaying matter in the soil.
Other invertebrates the I found were a brown slater and a tiny golden silverfish-like animal. If anyone could help with identifying it I’d be very grateful.
And this is….?
There is plenty of life still in the trees and shrubs, especially the wattles. Any clarifications about identification are appreciated.
Rhytidoponera ant in Silver Wattle
Ant (Papyrius sp?) in Drooping Sheoak
Wasp on Golden Wattle flower bud
by Patrick Kavanagh
A nocturnal venture into the bush at our place at Strangways at the moment means encountering a myriad of tiny spiders. Some, like this Crab Spider (about 10mm long including legs) pretend to be a bit of plant matter hanging in the web as soon as my light hits them.
This slightly larger green spider was too intent on wrapping up its prey to be bothered by the paparazzi.
Many of the spiders in the Golden Wattles at the moment, are however much smaller – a millimetre or even less in length.
A tiny spider with Golden Wattle flower bud
What did surprise me recently though, was the number of tiny midges that I at first assumed were trapped in the tiny webs of these arachnids. But as soon as I got too close, they would fly off. It seemed that they were using the webs at least for perching. But is there some other purpose? I’d appreciate any information about why they might choose to linger on the trap of a predator. I think they are midges rather than mosquitoes as their back legs are down. And I think the feathery antennae on this one mean it’s a male.
By day, there have been quite a few small black wasps on both Golden Wattle and Cassinia arcuata bushes and there have been a few Eucalyptus Weevils about.
Wasp on Golden Wattle
Another mystery for us was a strange looking multi-legged animal in the tub in our laundry. We fished it out with a Grey Box leaf and having no idea what would be an appropriate habitat, took some pics of it on the leaf before letting it go in the garden. Typing “bug with 15 pairs of legs” into Google quickly identified it as a House Centipede. It seems it would have been more accurate to photograph it in the house – their preferred habitat in which they hunt other invertebrates. There are native species, but I think this is the introduced one, Scutigera coleoptrata. We don’t know if it was living at our place or came back with our washing from a recent camping trip in NSW. A striking photographic subject even if it shouldn’t be here.
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
Willie Wagtail along Mia Mia Track
Wandering Ringtail Austrolestes leda
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
It seems that there is always so much to discover with some magnification at night in Box woodlands. With a bright headlight and some reading glasses I found what seemed to be very strange looking ant, with red blotches of various sizes. The macro lens revealed a very serious infestation of mites affecting this poor lady. She seemed to be feeding normally, taking something from the little gland at the base of the leaves of Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), but was a little slow. I think the ant might be a Golden-flumed Sugar Ant, but would be happy to have a more certain identification.
Ant with mite infestation
Ant with mite infestation feeding on wattle leaf gland
On the same wattle, I found a tiny bug, barely visible with just glasses. I’ve met this one before and the folk at bowerbird.org.au identified it as a Tingid Lacebug (Nethersia sp.)
Tingid Lacebug (Nethersia sp.)
Another small inhabitant of the bush that I’d met before was a Sutural Belid Weevil (Rhinotria suturalis). They make a great macrophotography subject as they tend to stay very still. This one was on a Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata)
Sutural Belid Weevil
Sutural Belid Weevil up close
Climbing around on a Long-leafed Box sapling was this tiny translucent bug. I’m not sure of its identity, but it looks a bit like a Mirid Bug nymph to me.
Although the number of arthropods visible around our place at Strangways has dropped significantly as the cooler weather moves in, there are still some insects around by both night and day. And a profusion of spiders. I have been quite surprised to encounter a few nymphs in the last week. It seems a little late in the season for young ones.
By day I have encountered a lone Coreid bug (Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bug) nymph on a Grey Box sapling, as well as an adult Acacia Horned Treehopper on Silver Wattle with retinue of attendant ants. The ants declined to be included in the photo shoot.
Coreid Bug nymph
Acacia Horned Treehopper, pretending to be a thorn.
Slender Bee Flies are still taking advantage of the afternoon sun and the second-flowering Shiny Everlastings.
Slender Bee Fly
By night I found a sole Treehopper nymph, again with attending ants. I suspect this one will moult into another Acacia Horned Treehopper.
Treehopper nymph on Golden Wattle
Also by night I found what I think is a Lauxaniid fly sheltering on a Long-leafed Box leaf and a wasp hiding in Silver Wattle foliage for the evening.
Wasp on Silver Wattle
Amongst the many spiders hunting in the bush at present, I found this small gem under a Grey Box leaf. It’s only small, but the pattern of the eyes, the splayed out legs and lack of web make me wonder if it’s a very young Huntsman.
Spider on Grey Box