Masters of air and earth

I am in awe of how the Sacred Kingfisher can switch from the air to the ground with such skill during the breeding season. Watching this pair bring skinks to the nest site in a vertical erosion bank is fascinating, as the birds perch momentarily to deposit the meal and then in a flash they are gone.

I’ve lost count of the number of pairs that I’ve found nesting this season, both in the bush and along our waterways – it promises to be a bumper crop.

Sacred Kingfisher, Loddon River @ Newstead, 10th December 2017

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Sacred things

This is sacred habitat.

Aulluvial-terraces Herb-rich Woodland in the Mia Mia, 9th December 2017

This is a sacred tree.

The nest site in a River Red-gum

This is a sacred hollow.

The hollow showing evidence of occupation

Meet the care takers.

Sacred Kingfisher about to enter the nest, 9th December 2017

The female above the nest site

Here’s the male

Woodswallows in the Mia Mia

These Dusky Woodswallows were so intent on counting that they pretty much ignored as I sat nearby with the camera. Two pairs of the birds were feeding in the gully below Mia Mia Track, dropping to the ground from a variety of perches to catch ants and other insects.

Dusky woodswallow, South German Track, 8th December 2017

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In their company were a host of Brown Treecreepers, including recently fledged juveniles, Sacred Kingfisher, Eastern Yellow Robin and Diamond Firetails. It’s a lovely spot for woodland birds.

Juvenile Brown Treecreeper

Male Red-rumped Parrot looking resplendent

Gone fishing

The following images were the culmination of a serendipitous chain of events last evening.

It started with a call from Jenny and Barry, asking if I might identify an unusual nest in their garden (Red-browed Firetail). As I was leaving under a stormy sky a Square-tailed Kite drifted directly overhead … I duly followed it all the way to the river (in the car) where I sat waiting for it to pass close enough for a decent snap.

As I sat on the river bank I could hear the noisy begging calls from a Sacred Kingfisher nest below my feet. I’ve been watching this pair for weeks without finding the tunnel. Now they are busy feeding youngsters!

Sacred Kingfisher nest, Loddon River @ Newstead, 7th December 2017

The female returning with a fish

The male perched nearby

A distant shot of the pair

To sting, hide or mimic

The bush in our yard at Strangways is a constant source of invertebrate subjects at this time of year – and they reveal a range of strategies for protection.

Lifting a rock I found this impressive and somewhat intimidating little Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus).

Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus)

Marbled Scorpion

This magnificent specimen, although well-armed, seemed to hope the intruder – me – would not notice and leave her alone. As soon as my attention shifted, she slid under another rock. I wonder if the bulge in the midriff might be pregnancy.

Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus)

Marbled Scorpion #2

Marbled Scorpion up close

Plenty of eyes and quite a mouth

On  branch of a Silver Wattle, I found the youngest Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph I’ve met to date. Another case of “If I don’t move, you’ll think I’m part of this branch.”

Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph

Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph

Whilst looking at a Grey Box leaf stem, I noted what looked very like a little gall or lump of vegetation, only a couple of mm long. When I got the macro lens onto it, I could see it was a tiny Long-nosed Weevil (Haplonyx sp) that had tucked its nose under to look like a gall.

Long-nosed Weevil (Haplonyx sp?)

Long-nosed Weevil

In my last post https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/speedwell-wallaby-grass-and-some-of-their-fans/ , I incorrectly labeled this little bloke a Cricket nymph. A bit more research has revealed that it is a Gum Leaf Katydid nymph, probably the 1st or 2nd instar. Whilst these nymphs can’t fly, their defence is to look something like an ant or spider – unappetising or threatening to potential predators. As they develop, they end up with the superb eucalypt leaf disguise that I’m more familiar with for katydids. Thanks to bowerbird.org.au for confirming the identity of this little cutie.

Katydid nymph

Gum Leaf Katydid nymph (Torbia viridissima) on Long-leafed Box

I’ve wondered where the term katydid comes from – it seems that it’s the sound made by an American species. I’ve also wondered about the extraordinary mouth parts of these animals. The little segmented “arms” coming off from around the mouth are called palps and are tasting organs. This one is perhaps tasting whatever it’s cleaning off its tiny feet.

Katydid nymph close up

A bit of cleaning.

PS: For those who enjoy photographs of tiny things, I will have an exhibition of macro photos “Small World” at Newstead’s Dig Cafe from December 19th. Hope you’ll be able to come along.

Variety is the spice of life

It’s not just Rainbow Bee-eaters by the river at present … there’s every chance you’ll encounter a Sacred Kingfisher as well.

Rainbow Bee-eater (male), Loddon River @ Newstead, 5th November 2017

Rainbow Bee-eater (female)

Rainbow Bee-eater (male)

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A Sacred Kingfisher got in the way!

Bee-eaters in form

I had the good fortune to watch this pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters along the Loddon River at the weekend.

Not for the first time, the birds were quicker than the photographer and I missed the actual courtship feeding event – however the image of the male passing a bee to the female is imprinted in my brain. Quite a buzz!

Male Rainbow Bee-eater, Loddon River @ Newstead, 3rd December 2017

I was too slow to catch the actual courtship feeding!

That’s why it’s called a bee-eater!

Down the hatch