Late summer and the Soldier Beetles are on the march. Well, not so much marching as breeding!
I’ve often wondered why they’re called soldier beetles. A bit of reading reveals that, since they were named long before the days of military camouflage, their red and black colours evoked the soldier’s uniforms of the day. They are also called leather wings due to their soft wing covers or elytra.
Plenty of other beetles are around at the moment too. Acacias sport quite a few Calomela leaf beetles.
One night recently, I came across an unusually large number of dragonflies sleeping in our front yard, hanging from various shrubs. I think they are Blue Skimmers (Orhtretum caledonicum). Not very blue at the moment as I think they have just moulted. As their skins mature, the boys will go a powdery blue colour and the girls will go brown. It’s not often that I get such cooperative dragonfly subjects!
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
Picnic Point, on the western edge of Cairn Curran never disappoints. It’s been a resting spot for Latham’s Snipe recently and I’ll be checking it regularly throughout the autumn.
Last night I had time for a brief visit and was amazed at the activity – dragonflies cruising the shallows, families of Grey Teal and both Whistling and Black Kites circling.
A pair of Masked Lapwings were very annoyed at my intrusion – a fluffy youngster disappeared into the long grass but the parents kept a noisy watch overhead. A young Australian Magpie-lark was snatching insects from the shoreline. This is a species that I’ve rarely photographed so I was pleased to capture some reasonable images.
Dragonflies and Damselflies seem particularly willing sitters at present. A little pond at Strangways has been playing host to large numbers of blue Damselflies, which I think are Wandering RingtailsAustrolestes leda. These little gems were very happy to have a large macro lens up close for some portraits. A male Wandering PercherDiplacodes bipunctata was not quite so cooperative, but a female of this species quite a way from any water was more patient. Apparently the two spots on the side of the abdomen give rise to the name bipunctata.
A strange species of diversely coloured luminous dragonfly was also observed at dusk one evening. Seems to have appeared close to Christmas. Festum festoonum perhaps.
It’s been a long while since a dragonfly featured on Natural Newstead. On Sunday evening I was captivated by these Wandering PerchersDiplacodes bipunctata buzzing around a small dam along Spring Hill Track.
Wandering Percher, Spring Hill Track, 8th February 2016
To build on the perching theme this male Red-capped Robin gave the birds a look in as well. The colours are there in the drab, dry bush – you just have to search for them!
Red-capped Robin, Mia Mia Track, 8th February 2016
Regular readers of this blog will appreciate how often the Loddon River features in stories and photographs. The Loddon is just one of many important waterways in our region that provides habitat for fauna, recreation for people and a multitude of ecosystem services including water purification, natural regeneration and flood mitigation.
Loddon River at Newstead, February 2014.
The waterways of north central Victoria are special. Here is your chance to find out more about what is currently being done to protect their values, and future priorities for protection and restoration. Over the next few weeks the North Central Catchment Management Authority is conducting a series of public forums seeking feedback on the draft Waterway Strategy for our region. The first of these will be held next Tuesday 18th March in Campbell’s Creek (7.30pm at the Community Centre), with further events at Kyneton, Kerang, Rochester and Charlton. Click here for further information.
I’d encourage you to attend if you can – it’s a great chance to learn about what’s happening and to show your support for our local waterways – the lifeblood of our landscape.
Australian Emperor dragonflies mating, Cairn Curran, 9th March 2014.
This small bush dam, near Muckleford Gorge, is in retreat – but still a haven for life. Blue Skimmer DragonfliesOrthetrum caledonicum, could be seen hunting energetically last weekend, with evidence of their previous lives under water, when conditions were cooler and wetter.
Bush dams, such as this one near Muckleford Gorge, are magnets for insects at this time of year.
Blue Skimmer, Muckleford Gorge, 2nd March 2014.
The spent nymphal cases of dragonflies were common amongst the cumbungi.
A visit to any small waterway at the moment will allow you to see squadrons of dragonflies and damselflies, skitting about in rapid fashion above the surface of the water. Having emerged from under water, where the nymphs have developed during the cooler months, these fantastic aerialists will be a constant feature of our Newstead summer. There are quite a number of different varieties – dragonflies can be distinguished by holding their wings at the horizontal while at rest, while damselflies rest the wings vertically. Both groups belong to the insect order Odonata.
Wandering Ringtail Damselfly, Bush dam near Spring Hill Track, 12th October 2013.
Damselflies begin searching for mates not long after emergence. Before they copulate the sexes spend quite some time in close contact, with the male clasping the female’s thorax with terminal appendages at the end of his abdomen, that fit together like a lock and key. The configuration is apparently different in each species, aiding in species recognition.
Wandering Ringtails courtship attachment – using water ribbons as a raft.
Spring is well and truly sprung and just to the north of us, around Bendigo, there is a smorgasbord of events planned over the next month or so. Spring in the Bendigo Bush will see a wonderful array of workshops, walks and talks taking place in the Bendigo district to celebrate the natural landscapes of the box-ironbark country – click here for the program.
Inland Pigface Carpobrotus modestus is flowering well now … and providing an important food source for ants.
Pretty sure this is a Wandering Ringtail, one of many damselflies seen enjoying the spring sunshine around a small fire-dam in the Muckleford bush, 3rd September 2013.
This Sunday, the 8th September, I’ve been invited to speak on a favourite topic (dare I say a ‘hobby horse’) – the pleasure, value and importance of recording the natural history of local places. I’ll be on from 6pm @ The Engine Room, next to The Capital, 50 View Street, Bendigo.
Check out the program and get along if you can to support one of the many and varied events on offer during September.