Category Archives: Uncategorized

Big trees matter …

… a lot – especially if you are a Southern Boobook.

River Red-gum, Tivey Street Newstead, 25th May 2019

Southern Boobook

II

A bee, some bugs and a strange, furry assassin

But first, I digress with a photo of a Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) blossom, just because they are beautiful and they are out. And in this image, a tiny pollinator can be seen poking out of a blossom. Another on one of the buds.

Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa)

Grey Box flowers and friends.

There seem to be more insects and other invertebrates out in recent weeks than for most of summer, but the numbers are still low it seems to me. Regulars like Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bugs ( Amorbus sp.) are about, but fewer than in most years. Both adults and nymphs can be found in our bush at Strangways. They make good subjects as they don’t seem to care about the proximity of the camera, possibly confident in their stinky defenses.The bugs use their sucking mouth parts to draw sap from Eucalypt leaves.

Eucalytpus Tip Wilter bug - Amorbus sp

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug on Grey Box

I think the little hole at the bottom of the body between the second and third pair of legs in the adult is the ostiole through which the stinky emission is delivered if needed.

Eucalytpus Tip Wilter bug - Amorbus sp

The profile of the bug shows the ostiole.

Eucalytpus Tip Wilter bug nymph - Amorbus sp

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug nymph on Grey Box.

Mirid bugs also suck sap from leaves. They are much more slender than the Coreid bugs like Amorbus. I found this one on a Long-leafed Box.

Mirid bug - Zanessa sp

Mirid bug – Zanessa sp.

Up close, the feeding method is more obvious

Mirid Bug - Rayieria sp

Zanessa sp.

I was pleased to get a quick shot of another botherer of the Grey Box, a Leafcutter bee (Megachilidae) These solitary bees live in the ground and line their nests with cuttings of leaves. There seem to be a lot of ground nesting bees checking out the soil surface at present, but they’ve decided not to stick around when the camera is near.

Leafcutter bee  - Megachilidae

Leafcutter Bee

The little wonder that really blew my socks off one night recently was this strange little insect, all of 8mm long, crawling around the base of our lemon tree. I gently picked it up with a leaf to get a good view (and photo) before putting it back on the edged of the planter box where I’d found it.

Ptilocnemus sp.

Had me intrigued!

By trawling through various sites, I found a match on Insects of Tasmania – a very useful web site for identifying insects. It is a Feather-legged Assassin Bug (Ptilocnemus femoralis). Assassin Bugs prey on other insects, ambushing them and then poisoning them with their long mouth parts and injecting enzymes that dissolve the internal organs so the bug can suck the life out of their prey. Ptilocnemus is specialised to feed on ants, secreting a chemical which attracts and paralyses them before the life is sucked out of them. What a find!

Ptilocnemus sp.

Feather-legged Bug (Ptilocnemus femoralis)

Oh frabjous day! Callooh, callay he chortled in his joy!

During the Living Landscapes project, a collaboration of Guildford/Upper Loddon, Sandon Werona and Newstead landcare groups with the then DSE and North Central CMA, a number of bird surveys were carried out in areas where the project was to operate. One, on our place at Strangways, identified our little patch of bush as an area of significance for Speckled Warblers (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus). At the time, I couldn’t tell a Speckled Warbler from a Striated Thornbill, but we were chuffed.

Striated Thornbill (Acanthiza lineata)

A very hot Striated Thornbill

Naturally, when introduced to the (time consuming) addiction of bird photography by that prodigious inveigler of the unwary, Geoff Park, I wanted to photograph these birds on our place. And failed and failed and failed again. I could see them, hear them and not get to within cooee. And I would see the beautiful photos Geoff would get of this species in the Muckleford Forest and along with the admiration, felt a twinge of pain at my own lack of success. A little arrow like the sagittus indicated in the species name. So years ago, I set up a bird bath with an array of photogenic perches and a little hide at the back of our place where I’d seen them most.

Hide

My little hide

On hot summer evenings, year after year I crouched in my hide and waited. And waited. And I photographed a lot of birds therefrom. Thornbills of all stripes, Honeyeaters, Fairy-wrens and Pardalotes, Rosellas and Shrike-thrush, Treecreepers and Whistlers all posed – oblivious to the perspiring and overheated fool in the little green box.

In the stinking heat of last Thursday and Friday, there I was again. Now as my addiction has grown, so has the lens I use and it is now quite unwieldy in the little hide built for more modest glass and too long in focus for bigger birds (no zoom). So when an elegant Grey Shrike-thrush popped in for a drink, it was head and shoulders only.

Grey-shrike Thrush_19-01-21_2

Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica)

Brown-headed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters also dropped by.

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus brevirostris)

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)

More of the same…

Yellow-faced Honeyeater (Lichenostomus chrysops)

Yellow-faced Honeyeater (Lichenostomus chrysops)

A Superb Fairy-wren changing out of his glad rags, no longer so willing to impress the ladies.

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

Thornbills Yellow…

Yellow Thornbill (Acanthiza nana)

Yellow Thornbill (Acanthiza nana)

…and Brown.

Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)

Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)

And in with the White-throated Treecreeper male…

White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea)

White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea)

…at last dear and patient reader (bear with me, I’ve waited for this longer than you have), at last not one, but TWO SPECKLED WARBLERS!!! Not that the two would get in the same frame together – but still! I could barely point the big bit of glass I was holding due to the shaking of my paws.

Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus)

Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus)

And number two so close it just fitted in the frame.

Speckled Warbler ((Pyrrholaemus sagittatus)

Warbler the second.

Many thanks to Lewis Carroll for the wonderful line of exultation. And to Geoff for supporting my addiction and letting me post this overly long celebratory drivel on his wonderful blog.

Sweet Bursaria, Bok Choy and Leek – a recipe for pollinators

Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) is a prickly bush, indigenous to our area, with sprays of white flowers in early summer. We’ve had a few specimens on our place and have been lucky to augment them with plants grown by Frances Cincotta from seeds in our own lane in Strangways. The ones we planted in our front yard, free from grazing pressure, have a profusion of small, delicate flowers at present.

Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa)

Sweet Bursaria

The plant takes its name from the purse-shaped seed pods. As the plants have been flowering over some time, there are seed pods forming alongside new flowers.

Sweet Bursaria seed pod

Sweet Bursaria seed pod.

Slender Bee Flies (Geron sp.) are frequent visitors to the flowers at present and make great subjects as they don’t seem bothered by the proximity of the camera.

Bee Fly - Geron sp.

Slender Bee Fly

I love the way these flies so often seem to have pollen grains on their eyes. Their long probosces are great for going deep into flowers. I am also fascinated by the intricate details of all fly species, especially around their thoraces where the wings join on.

Bee fly - Geron sp.

Slender Bee Fly up even closer

Red and Blue Beetles (Dicranolaius sp) have also been enjoying the bounty.

Red and Blue Beetle - Dicranolaius

Red and Blue Beetle

On one plant, I thought this Rhytidoponera ant was doing some pollinating, as ants are very important in this area. But on close inspection, she seemed more intent on the seed pod, from which a few bites had been taken.

Rhytidoponera_18-12-15_7

Rhytidoponera sp.

Flowers in our vegie patch are also providing nutrition for invertebrates as well as us. Bok Choy seems a favourite.

Bee fly - Geron sp.

Slender Bee Fly on Bok Choy

Bee - Lassioglossum?

Lassioglossum bee

Wasp

A tiny wasp, <3mm long

And on a leek flower, a tiny beetle digs in. This seems to be the same species I found with its hind legs in the air on a wattle a little while back https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/wattles-who-doesnt-love-them/. The Sweet Bursaria have been covered with them too. Always head down, bottom and legs up!

Beetle

Bottom-up beetle in leek flower

 

 

Melaleuca abundance, Ladybird stages, Bees and a sticky end

We have a number of Melaleuca decussata shrubs prospering in our front yard, of hardy stock acquired from Newstead Natives. They are all at present heavy with flowers.

melaleauca decussata

Melaleuca decussata flower opening.

The profusion of flowers has attracted an abundance of insect life. Large numbers of Ladybird larvae are on both branches and flowers and look vastly different to their adult forms.

Ladybird larva

Ladybird larva on melaleuca flower.

As they start to develop into their pupal stage, they start to look a bit more reminiscent of the adults, even though they will be completely transformed within their pupal case.

Ladybird pupa

Ladybird finalising a pupa, the larva just visible at the point of attachment.

Ladybird adult

Ladybird adult on a nearby Golden Wattle

The flowers have also attracted numerous bees and other pollinators. Myriad tiny sweat bees were too fast for me to photograph, but some slightly large sweat bees tarried long enough for a picture.

Sweat bee

Sweat bee on melaleuca flower, with incoming…

Other, larger bees were also visiting. I think these ones are a species of Short-tongued Bees, possibly of genus Hylaeus. Short-tongued bees are solitary and live in burrows or plant stems.

Bee - Hylaeus sp?

Hylaeus sp?

Along with the abundance of bees is the hidden danger of Crab Spiders (aka Flower Spiders). I think this one is of genus Lehtinelagia. They seem quite capable of landing some large prey by pouncing on visitors to their flowers.

Crab Spider and bee

Crab Spider with prey.

Many beetles are also feasting on the plentiful flowers.

Beetle

Beetle on melaleuca

 

Waiting game

It’s been interesting watching woodswallows over recent weeks. Small flocks of migrating birds, mainly White-browed with a few Masked Woodswallows started arriving in late September and have been observed in numerous local spots since then. So far there have been limited indication that they will breed. Last evening I watched a small mixed flock along Mia Mia Road – a number of pairs were sitting close together and mutual preening, usually a sign that nest-building may occur. I’d be interested in any local observations of nesting over coming weeks.

Male Masked Woodswallow, Mia Mia Road, 8th November 2018

Female White-browed Woodswallow

Male White-browed Woodswallow

White-browed Woodswallow pair

Masked Woodswallow pair

Cuckoos and caterpillars #3

Today’s instalment…hoping I might get Pallid and Black-eared Cuckoos soon to complete the set.

Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo with caterpillar, Mia Mia, 9th September 2018

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