Autumn’s golden light

Golden Whistlers are starting to venture into our box-ironbark woodlands after their summer sojourn in the hills. Meanwhile, Eastern Yellow Robins appear to be moving from summer refuges along local rivers and creeks back into the ‘bush’. Both species are wonderful additions to the golden light of autumn.

Eastern yellow Robin, Rise and Shine, 6th April 2019

Male Golden Whistler

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Near and far

Chris Tzaros and I have just completed another set of bird photography workshops (#29 & #30), with a great group of participants – some local, others from as far afield as Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle. It was terrific to spend time with keen and experienced folks … birders and photographers, in the bush around Newstead.

A highlight for all was this active Yellow-tufted Honeyeater nest in the Rise and Shine. Two well-grown nestlings were being fed with lerp and insects at regular intervals by the adults.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater with lerp, Rise and Shine, 6th April 2019

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One of the nestlings

Adult at the nest – both nestlings visible

Here to stay!

In recent months I’ve been observing Blue-faced Honeyeaters more and more often around town. The calls of this recently arrived species are now part of the local soundscape. Earlier in the week I arrived home to see two sitting above the bird bath in the front yard. It was interesting to watch a Red Wattlebird swoop in and join the honeyeaters. In normal circumstances the wattlebird would have caused any smaller birds, even rosellas and galahs, to quickly disperse. The Blue-faced Honeyeater is a similar size to a Red Wattlebird and just as aggressive – they didn’t even blink upon the arrival of the wattlebird.

Blue-faced Honeyeater, Wyndham Street Newstead, 4th April 2019

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Late afternoon Bee Flies, an evening ant and a moth of dread

Having not seen any Slender Bee Flies since the height of summer, there seem to be quite a few about the place again. Perching in late afternoon sunlight on the tips of a Melaleuca decussata in our yard, they provide an admirable subject for the macro lens and seem fairly comfortable with the intrusion on their afternoon contemplations.

Bee Fly (Geron sp)

Slender Bee Fly (Geron sp.)

As night fell, I was pleased to find this large and imposing lady prowling around the yard. As forbidding as the pincers on this Myrmecia pyriformis appear, she was quite sedate, but I kept my fingers at a safe distance as I held the twig she was on.

Myrmecia pyriformis

Bullant – Myrmecia pyriformis

The information on this species on Antwiki  says that they forage at night, heading off singly on Eucalyptus trees. The nest may or may not have a queen and workers are able to reproduce if there is no queen.

Myrmecia pyriformis

Up close

Myrmecia pyriformis

Impressive equipment

Quite abundant at present are the adult forms of Painted Cup Moths. I hope that this does not portend another heavy infestation of their colourful and stinging caterpillars which wreak such havoc on the Eucalyptus canopy. I have to say, the canopy at our place has recovered amazingly well from some of the past Cup Moth events and it is important to note that the species is native to the area.

Painted Cup Moth

Painted Cup Moth resting on a Grey Box leaf

Painted Cup Moth

Top view.

I assume the “Painted” moniker applies to the colourful larvae.

Cup Moth larva

Cup Moth larva – July 2014

The Cup part relates to the cup shaped cocoon, seen in the beak of a Grey Shrike-thrush in this post of Geoff’s from a while back. The larvae feed on the leaves of eucalypts, then drop to the ground, crawl up a stem and build their cup-shaped cocoon in which they transform into the adult moth.

At our place, the larvae seem to be a favourite food for ravens, with great flocks working through the canopy and then the leaf litter as the larvae drop from the trees.

 

 

Easter Heath Check

from Ivan Carter @ Connecting Country

BirdLife International has designated hundreds of areas of conservation importance around the world known as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA).  In the Mount Alexander Shire, we are part of one of these KBA’s – the Bendigo Box Ironbark area.  Our part of the KBA has been designated especially for the Diamond Firetail and Swift Parrot, and covers both public and private land.

Spotted late yesterday in the Clydesdale KBA … a Diamond Firetail

BirdLife Australia is looking for people in each of the Key Biodiversity Areas to complete an “Easter health check” for their local area. Connecting Country will be holding a workshop at the Newstead Community Centre Mechanics Hall on Friday 12 April 2019.  We’ve invited Greg Turner from BirdLife Victoria to take us through the process for our part of the Bendigo Box Ironbark area. Geoff Nevill from the Muckleford Forest Friends Group will also talk about their groups work in the region.

This annual check is about assessing habitat and its threats so anyone with an interest in landscape restoration would be most welcome.

For those who may not know, our regions three ‘Key Biodiversity Areas’ (KBAs) in Mt Alexander Shire are: Clydesdale-Strangways : Sandon-Strathlea : Muckleford-Newstead. For more information on the KBA and the Easter Health check process click here.

Volunteers Eleanor and Jenny surveying the Muckleford KBA. Source: Connecting Country

Please come along to this workshop to learn how you can participate in the Easter Health Check for our KBAs:
1. Learn about the KBA’s in the Mount Alexander Shire
2. Find out about KBA Easter Health Check – what it is and how to do it
3. Meet other people working with KBAs
Where: Newstead Community Centre Mechanics Hall, 9 Lyons St, Newstead
When: Friday 12 April 2019: 9.00 to 11.30 am
This is a free event, with morning tea and refreshments provided. To book for this event, please click here.

Autumn reboot

If last evening in the Mia Mia is any indication bird numbers are rebounding after a harsh summer. Dozens of young Dusky Woodswallows were gliding low under the canopy in search of insects, while a suite of honeyeaters foraged all around. Golden Whistlers have arrived back from the highlands, their sweet melodies adding an extra dimension to the pre-dusk chatter.

White-browed Babbler, South German Track, 2nd April 2019

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Immature Dusky Woodswallow

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Adult Dusky Woodswallow

Male Golden Whistler

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater

List: Black-chinned Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Golden Whistler, Eastern Rosella, Musk Lorikeet, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Crested Shrike-tit.

A bevy of beetles

It seems to be a time of beetles at present, with most of my forays into the bush at our place turning up beetles. Well, as cooperative sitters, anyway. There also seem to be plenty of flies, including quite a few Robber Flies, but they are very coy and I don’t have any worthwhile photos from this season.

One sweet little species is about 10 mm long and golden coloured with a few black dots and a bright yellow spot at the base of the wing covers. Trawling through the internet, I found out that it is a type of case leaf beetle, a Cylinder Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle, Cadmus excrementarius.

Cylinder Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle

Cylinder Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle

I am impressed by the way insect eyes are so deftly formed to make space for their antennae.

Cylinder Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle

Cadmus excrementarius

Apparently these beetles lay their eggs within their faeces, dropping the protective faecal pellet and eggs into the leaf litter where the larvae feed on fallen Eucalypt leaves. Most leaf beetle larvae feed on living leaves on trees, so here the case beetles are different to other leaf beetles.

Cylinder Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle (Cadmus excrementarius)

Mum uses her hind legs to help the large faecal/egg packet out

Cylinder Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle (Cadmus excrementarius)

A very intimate view of a pooing beetle.

Soldier Beetles are quite common at the moment and mostly working on establishing the next generation like this pair. One species – and I’m not sure if it’s this one as there are two that look similar, does not eat in adult form, relying entirely on reserves from their larval stage.

Soldier Beetles

Soldier Beetles

Also with an eye to posterity were these tiny Jewel Beetles (I think), all of about 3mm long. Like the Soldier Beetles, they weren’t going to let a fool with a camera distract them from the task at hand.

Jewel Beetles

Jewel Beetles

This one that I found by night on a Flax-lily looks the same as the female in the previous photo.

Jewel beetle

A Jewel of the night.

I also found this little cutie at night, wedged in the stems of an old Wallaby Grass flower stem. Appropriately, this one is called a Red and Blue Beetle – Dicranolaius is the genus name. Who knows what the beetle calls itself though.

Dicranolaius

Red and Blue Beetle

I’ve also found a few weevils with large projections on their heads and striking, black mouth parts. So far I haven’t been able to pin down a genus for these.

Weevil

Weevil

They look a bit like a sinister alien from the front.

Weevil

Front view.