Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Jezebels and painted ladies

In my suburban garden a butterfly or two occasionally wander through but here on the farm it's lovely to see them in numbers flying low over the grass.

The most common are the male Common Browns and the Cabbage Whites but I've seen a few Painted Ladies and several Spotted Jezebels on the Agonis in the garden (see below). The flowering Agonis is attracting a lot of native bees, flies and beetles.


And this Mantis Fly arrived inside with the washing off the line. I took it outside to have its portrait taken and then let it go.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Colourful cloud

Phew! Holidays at last. It's six weeks since I last blogged. The last few weeks have been busy but now we're down at our farm near Heywood for a couple of weeks. Lots of family will be coming and going and its going to be a busy but in a different way and there will still be lots of time to get out into the bush.

As we left Geelong this afternoon I saw this cloud over Highton. The rainbow colours only lasted a few minutes and then the colour was gone. It was very warm and sunny, no showers, and the photo was taken almost looking into the sun. I seem to remember reading in my cloud book that this phenomenon has a name but that book's at home and I only have limited internet access here. [Update: My friend Marilyn tells me it's an iridescent cloud http://www.atoptics.co.uk/droplets/irid1.htm ]

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Bryophytes

Last weekend, Victoria's unofficial extra long weekend because of the melbourne Cup, we went down to the Otways to explore the wet forest.

Our main aim was to relocate the Thismia rodwayi that we found last year, which we did, and a specimen will be collected for the herbarium - and then we explored around the Forrest area for the following day or so. Then we went home to dry out.

We found some lovely plants and animals but these are some of the lichens and liverworts from that area. It was lovely to see the wet forest actually wet.







Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Moth caterpillars

While Trevor, Craig and Grace poked around the rocks looking for lizards and snakes I took a break (from the tension!) and poked around under the bark of some eucalypts - and found this interesting caterpillar. It's Oenosandra boisduvalii Boisduval's Autumn Moth. Apparently it lives in southern Australia, including Tasmania, and the male and female moths look quite different from each other and were thought to be separate species at one stage.




But it doesn't do as much damage as another species that is in plague proportions around the coast at Anglesea at the moment. Painted Cup Moth caterpillars, Doratiphora oxleyi, are everywhere, chewing on leaves of various species of shrubs and trees. They're doing a lot of damage but presumably the plants will recover. I'll be down there again soon and will look for the cup-shaped cocoons on twigs.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Spring in the Common

The reserve at Inverleigh, known as the Common, has been very dry for the last decade or more. But we've had something like average rainfall this year and the plants in the Common have responded. On a short visit this week we found a lot of orchids, dozens of a few species in a small area. And that's just the orchids. It was looking spectacular.
Hornet orchid Diuris sulphurea



Thelymitra sp. Sun-orchid. Possibly T. peniculata


Spotted Sun-orchid Thelymitra ixioides


Thelymitra sp. Sun-orchid. Possibly T. malvina



Above and below: Thelymitra rubra Salmon Sun-orchid


Skinks

First we checked the twenty mammal traps that had been set out amongst the stony rises in Floating Island Reserve (one Swamp Rat and nine Dusky Antechinus). What's the plural of antechinus?

Then we tagged Trevor, the reptile expert, who led us into some pretty scary spots. There's no way I would have walked where we did if I'd been alone. Big rocks, long grass, lots of nooks and crannies - perfect for a reptile.

Apart from the White-lipped Snake that Trevor had found the day before under a piece of corrugated iron we only saw a Tiger Snake, but probably didn't see numerous others. But we did find some skinks basking in the sun on the dark rocks in the reserve, and were especially pleased to find the special Dreeite (or Corangamite) Water Skink, that only lives in that area, when we drove north on Hawksnest Road.

I think I'm done with reptile-hunting.

Black Rock Skink Egernia saxatilis

Dreeite Water Skink Eulamprus tympanum marnieae

Eastern Three-lined Skink Acritoscincus duperreyi

Monday, 25 October 2010

The lake really is a lake

What a different year this is. Water everywhere. Several years ago I was blogging here about the lakes in the western district being totally dry. Today we drove by Lake Colac, Lake Corangamite, Lake Beeac and many others on the volcanic plains that this year have water in them. It's a sight that makes my heart sing.

Lake Beeac, above, was looking brilliant today - almost pure white, shallow and salty. And in the Floating Islands Reserve at PirronYallock we did some reptile-hunting on the rocks above a beautiful little lake in the reserve (below).

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Yay!! It's orchid time.

Yesterday I was on my ownsome, but not feeling lonesome, exploring the bush around Anglesea. At one stage I ran into a bunch of friendly fellow-enthusiasts, the Ringwood Field Nats on a weekend camp, and piggy-backed on some of their discoveries. (Many eyes are better than just two.) There is a lot of bush around Anglesea but some of the best spots to see orchids are right in town.

The area is well-known for its orchids and there have been several useful references published* to make the life of an amateur much easier. The common orchids were there, Rabbit Ears, Mayflies, Pink Fingers, Waxlip Orchids and  Donkey Orchids, but there were a few special ones as well. Of course I always fail to photograph the one identifying feature of whatever I'm trying to identify but I think I'm in the right ball park with these. (Click on photos to view large.)

Caladenia australis Southern Spider Orchid

Caladenia parva Small Spider Orchid

Calaadenia venusta Large White Spider Orchid

Pterostylis sp. aff. plumosa Bearded Greenhood (This one only grows in this area.)

Caladenia cardiochilla Thick-lip Spider Orchid

*Flora of the Otway Plain & Ranges 1, Enid Mayfield
*Orchids of the Anglesea District, Everett Foster & Margaret MacDonald

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Corridors

We've been a bit busy this week and I'm feeling my age. With 400 trees to plant in a corridor on our farm we enlisted some family helpers, including our grandson. We did it the old-fashioned way - dug a hole for each tree and installed a shelter. The shrubs and trees we planted are the same as those that grow naturally in the surrounding bush and hopefully the local birds, reptiles, koalas, possums and insects will find it a good place to live in the future.

This is one of the corridors we planted out, a space created when the farmer leasing the property wanted to narrow the laneway so that the dairy cows could be moved faster.



Monday, 13 September 2010

Churchill Island

The first European to visit Phillip Island was George Bass in 1798. His mode of transport was a 27' whaleboat. He and six seamen rowed down the coast from Sydney and in the process proved that Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) was separated from the Australian mainland by a strait (now called Bass Strait). (As an aside, they discovered seven escaped convicts on an island in the strait and took them back to Sydney - it must have been a squash, and they were on very limited rations.)

On Friday 5th January 1798, Bass reached Phillip Island and wrote;
I have named the place from its relative situation to every other known harbour on the coast, Western Port.....The land around Western Port is low but hilly. The grass and ferns grow luxuriantly and yet the country is but thinly and lightly timbered. The gum tree, she and swamp oaks, are the most common trees..little patches of brush are to be met with everywhere. The island is but barren. Starved shrubs grow upon the higher land, and the lower is nothing better than sandy beaches, at this time dried up...we saw a few brush kangaroo, the wallabah, but no other kind. Swans may be seen here, hundreds in flight, and ducks, a small but excellent kind. There is an abundance of most kinds of wildfowl.

(From Journey of a Whaleboat Voyage, Bass' own account)
Phillip Island is very different now. Agriculture, tourism, and a race track are all important components but the natural environment is protected in certain areas. We didn't have time to explore Cape Wollamai but it would be good to go there in the summer when the shearwaters in their hundreds fly back to their burrows.

We visited Churchill Island, joined to Phillip Island by a causeway. We found a Cape Barren Goose and family of chicks beside the causeway road.

Churchill Island is a historic working farm now but there are important protected mudflats and revegetation projects on the island itself. There are still some old and gnarled Moonahs Melaleuca lanceolata, maybe 500 years old, with trunks that look like twisted rope, growing among the 50 million-year-old basalt rocks on the shore and cliffs. So they would have been growing there when Bass visited and Grant planted his crops. In 1801 Lt. James Grant landed on Churchill Island and planted the first crops in Victoria but his residence was only temporary. It was over 40 years before a pastoral lease was taken out on the whole of Phillip Island and sheep introduced.




Saturday, 11 September 2010

Cliff-hangers

A boardwalk covered in tourists, a seabird 'garden' covered in nesting Silver Gulls and Little Penguin burrows, spectacular views of a rugged shoreline and several islands, an information centre complete with cafe, an important breeding colony of seals, pounding waves - this is The Nobbies on Phillip Island east of Melbourne.



I've never seen a breeding colony of Silver Gulls - they're one of our most common birds but they breed on offshore islands. And the headland near The Nobbies since a successful revegetation project. The revegetation area is now called a 'breeding bird garden' and has it's own EVC catagory - pigface, poa, Bower Spinach and a senecio make up the flora community.


Little Penguins are also nesting on the cliff and we saw several young ones in their burrows, unnoticed by the tourists. (OK, we were tourists too, but of a superior quality.) We also saw several busloads of tourists fleetingly visiting several areas on the island before going to the Penguin Parade. And we managed to avoid the big crowds attending the Phillip Island round of the V8 Supercar series. (No I'm not a petrol-head, the last sentence is a direct dictation from my brother-in-law.)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A feast of fungi

Visit to the Otways, Part 2. This time the fungi we found at Blanketleaf Picnic Ground yesterday - an unexpected bonanza. Even though we've had rain I hadn't expected the fungi to still be so prolific and varied. The IDs are suggestions only - I'm happy to be corrected.

Pretty Mouth Calostoma fuscum
Jellybaby Leotia lubrica
Black Earth Tongue Geoglossum  sp.
Coral Fungi
Coral Fungi
Pluteus sp.
?
Update: Galerina unicolor. Thanks Helen.

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