Happy New Year and 2018 reprised

Best wishes for 2019 to all readers of Natural Newstead. Thank you for the kind comments over the past year. Here is a selection of some of my favourite images – one for each month of 2018.

Southern Boobook, Wyndham Street Newstead, 23rd January 2018

Red-capped Robin (female), Rise and Shine, 18th February 2018

Great Egret @ Cairn Curran, 14th March 2018

Male Flame Robin, Mia Mia Track, 25th April 2018 … first of the season

Silvereye feeding on Ruby Saltbush in the home garden, 25th May 2018

Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 23rd June 2018

Hooded Robins, Newstead Cemetery, 28th July 2018

Eastern Spinebill, Wyndham Street Newstead, 12th August 2019

Blue-winged Parrot, South German Track, 8th September 2018

Sacred Kingfishers, Mia Mia Track area, 20th October 2018

Nankeen Kestrel, Moolort Plains, 1st November 2018

Rainbow Bee-eater, Sandon State Forest, 31st December 2018

A lean year?

In a good year Nankeen Kestrels can easily raise three young. This year conditions have not been favourable, with food scarce on the plains. As a result only a single youngster has emerged in 2018 – at least two nestlings were seen earlier in December. Normally three eggs will be laid but nestlings will weaken and die if there is not sufficient food to go around.

Juvenile Nankeen Kestrel, Moolort Plains, 30th December 2018

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Just in time!

I was concerned that in my absence over Xmas the 2018/19 crop of Rainbow Bee-eaters may have fledged and left their nesting tunnels.

Not so. The adults are still busily bringing prey to the youngsters and I think it will be a few days before they take flight.

Rainbow Bee-eater with dragonfly, Sandon State Forest, 29th December 2018

Male at top with Dragonfly

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Male with Robberfly

Bird baths doing their job

Returning home after a few days on the coast I was pleased to see our bird baths doing their job. I’d filled them to the brim when we left on 23 December and most had at least a pool of water remaining, after a succession of days in the ‘high thirties’.

Heatwave conditions can be tough, for small birds especially. There was a steady procession last evening to our home garden watering points – Weebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Common Bronzewing and Brown-headed Honeyeater, in addition to those pictured below.

Galahs, Wyndham Street Newstead, 28th December 2018

Australian Magpie

New Holland Honeyeater

Male Spotted Pardalote

How sweet are Sugar Ants, really?

I remember Black-headed Sugar Ants (Campanotus nigriceps) from my childhood being somehow special and of sweet temperament. They seemed very placid and I’d never known them to bite or be aggressive.

A wander in the bush on a warm night at our place at Strangways and there are plenty of them, foraging on both eucalypts and Golden Wattles.

Black-headed Sugar Ant (Camponotus nigriceps)

Black-headed Sugar Ant

I was quite startled to watch one of these serene beings of the night staking out a smaller black ant that was feeding on the nectar gland in the bend of the leaf stalk of a Golden Wattle. The Sugar Ant seemed very keen to get to the gland and suddenly struck out at the smaller ant. My naive view of this species seemed shattered.

Black-headed Sugar Ant (Camponotus nigriceps) wanting to move someone else along from the nectar

She seems to want to move the smaller ant on.

The several strikes were rapid and I could see the mandibles moving. But she seemed to be hopelessly short of range and actually quite desultory and after a few half-hearted efforts, she moved on to other pickings. My faith in them restored. To a point.

On another Golden Wattle, I found a few other species seemingly sharing in harmony. Like an Acacia Jewel Beetle feeding with two Leaf Beetle larvae.

An Acacia Jewel Beetle and a pair of Leaf Beetle larvae share a wattle leaf

Acacia Jewel Beetle and Leaf Beetle larvae

And a another pair of beetles munching in mirror image.

Beetles

Beetles on Golden Wattle

I found another intriguing beetle on a Mistletoe – I think it’s another Jewel Beetle.

Jewel Beetle - Hypocisseissp?

Jewel Beetle?

Also quite serene was this Paper Wasp, lazily browsing on a parsley plant on our front porch and quite at ease with a close up portrait. I was intrigued by the multicoloured exoskeleton.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

 

A decade on …

Today, 23rd December 2018, marks a decade of Natural Newstead.

The first post recorded some observations that I made with Joe in the Rise and Shine on the 23rd December 2008.

I guess it’s apt that today’s note, post number 2767, should also feature ‘The Shine’ … one of my favourite local places, that is also enjoyed by lovers of nature far and wide.

Dusky Woodswallow, Rise and Shine, 16th December 2018

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A time of weevils

There are quite a few different weevil species active at our place at Strangways at present. Recently, I found a Long-nosed Weevil curled up in the fork of leaf stems on a Golden Wattle. These are so hard to see as they are only a couple of millimetres long and curl themselves up so that they look like a little gall on the stem rather than an insect.

Long-nosed Weevil - Haplonyx sp.

Long-nosed Weevil – Haplonyx sp.

Last night, I found another tiny weevil clinging to the stem of a wattle.

Weevil - Gonipterus perhaps?

Weevil #2 – Goniopterus sp?

It looked a lot like a pair of Goniopterus weevils I found mating a little while back, but very much smaller. So I wonder if it might be a smaller version or a younger individual.

Eucalyptus Weevils (Gonipterus sp?)

Goniopterus mating on Red Box

Also common at the moment is another type of Eucalyptus weevil – Myllocerus sp.

Eucalyptus Weevil - Myllocerus sp.

Myllocerus weevil.

Belid Weevils, are also around in good numbers. When I met this one, I only had my super macro MP-E65 lens with me, so I couldn’t fit the whole species in, so I went for a real close up. For a wider view of this species, have a look at https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/wattles-who-doesnt-love-them/

Belid Weevil up close

Belid Weevil up close

Not quite in the weevil theme, I found a Black-headed Bull Ant (Myrmecia nigriceps) foraging on a Hardenbergia tendril. Again, I only had the super macro lens on, so only a very in-your face portrait of this magnificent lady. I made sure to keep my fingers well away, although she did seem very relaxed.

Black-headed Bull Ant (Myrmecia nigriceps)

Black-headed Bull Ant (Myrmecia nigriceps)

Finally, a big thank you to all those that have come through our exhibition at Newstead Railway Arts Hub. Your response to our photos has been very encouraging and it’s been wonderful to share the experience. The show is still on this weekend, 10-4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. We expect that quite a few photos that have been sold will be collected on Sunday afternoon, so coming earlier to view it all is probably a good idea.