Monday, 30 March 2009

More wildlife in my garden

As the long dry continues more and more plants in my garden curl up their toes (leaves) and die. At the moment there are probably six that need to be removed. It's quite depressing to walk around the garden - not really a joy at all.

But there are a few highlights and finding the occasional insect is one of them. Yesterday I found these little eggs on long delicate stalks attached to a Hardenbergia leaf. I think they're lacewing eggs.

And this little spider was hiding under a leaf near its web on a Darwinia shrub. It's a crab spider from the Thomisidae family, Sidymella species. You can see why they're called crab spiders.

I went out with the torch last night and found several more little spiders running up their webs or sitting on bark waiting but didn't photograph them - I'm very bad at using a flash, everything always ends up washed out, so knew I'd be wasting my time. It's a skill I must try to develop and maybe I need to add to my camera equipment.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Hoppers on my grevillea

Yesterday I saw these little hoppers (treehoppers?) hopping around the foliage of a grevillea in my garden. With the help of Tony of Tasmania the ID has been narrowed down to the Membracidae family and probably Terentius sp. They haven't actually been recorded in Victoria on any of the references we've looked at but the descriptions fit.

This morning I went out to have another look, and found instars - the molt shells - as well as a few more of the hoppers.

Friday, 27 March 2009

A berry pretty meadow

Really we had stopped at the berry farm near Swansea for pancakes but I got a bit distracted by the numerous butterflies and damselflies on the garden flowers. The brilliant blue damselflies were too quick for me and my camera but I managed to 'capture' one or two of the Meadow Argus butterflies.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Fungi at Liffey

We were tourists in Tasmania so we visited a popular tourist spot - Liffey Falls south of Deloraine.

The state is also experiencing the long dry so I wasn't expecting to see much water over the falls but in fact they were looking very beautiful and must be a wonderful sight in a wet winter. The tree ferns line the track down to the falls but the mosses and lichens were looking very parched.

It was a pleasant surprise find a few small fungi. I don't know what the first two are but I think the white one is sporangia of a slime mould (it looks like Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa in Fuhrer's book) and the orange one a Jelly Fungus Tremella sp. When I put the Jelly Fungus pictures on my computer I saw that it was covered in little insects - as usual I didn't notice that at the time. Maybe I need new glasses.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Cut off in their prime

Last Sunday we were driving on the Wielangta Forest Track south of Orford in Tasmania when I spotted this dozer working. I think land was being cleared to put in a Blue Gum plantation. In Victoria they are not allowed to push native vegetation for plantations so I was surprised to see it happening in Tasmania.

And I was also surprised to see trees that have been left standing in paddocks that have been cut off about head height and allowed to regrow. Many have died but those that still stand look terrible. This tree was in the Esk Valley on the east coast but I saw numerous trees like it in the Derwent Valley as well. I couldn't work out the reasoning behind the action.


They call it 'The Edge of the World'. If you look at a map of the world and follow the 40 something degree parallel west from Arthur River on Tasmania's west coast you don't hit land again until you reach the east coast of the Patagonia region of Argentina in South America. It's an awesome thought when you stand on the coast there and gaze out to sea. But look down onto the rocks below and you see all the flotsam, mainly huge pieces of wood and trees, hurled onto the rocks by the waves. Imagine running into one of those at sea on a dark night.

Several days later we visited the excellent Tasmanian Museum. One of their exhibitions featured the Antarctic and it was so interesting it took us a while to get out of there. One of the exhibits was a pile of debris found on the beaches of Macquarie Island - plastic mainly, plastic that had been floating on the seas of the world for years probably, causing untold damage to marine life.

Bee battle

Battling bees? No, one bee that appeared to be fighting its own reflection on the bumper bar of our car but may have been eating something. I couldn't tell.

But this bee is at the centre of another battle. The Bumble Bee was 'introduced' into Tasmania in 1992 and is gradually expanding its range. Some vegetable growers want to see it introduced onto the mainland. What a horrible thought. It's a huge, huge bee and the damage being done in Tasmania is still being assessed.

Monday, 16 March 2009

On the rocks

One of the best things about exploring new areas on a holiday is seeing the different geology. In Tasmania this week I've seen fossils in a cliff at Wynyard, ancient volcanoes called The Nut and Table Cape, interesting folds in the exposed rocks on the northern beaches and the debris left from the glaciers of long ago. I'm sure it would be even more interesting if only I could remember one geological period from another! I can still remember my 12 times table, why can't I remember my geological times table?

Polluted paradise

We travelled up to Queenstown from Strahan by rail, following the King River for much of the way. For most of the trip we were in amongst the ancient myrtle beech trees, blackwoods, ferns and pines and because it was raining we really got an understanding of what a wet forest really means. I'm not a train buff but it was exciting to see the steam from our little engine drifting up through the canopy and hear the train's whistle echo along the track.

But the trip is an eye-opener for another reason. Pollution. The King River is dead. Pollution from the copper mining operations at Queenstown not only denuded the hills around the town itself but poisoned the Queen River and the lower reaches of the King River. The hills (behind the turning engine in the photo below) are slowly being revegetated but it's going to take centuries to get a spread of species - at the moment it seems to be mainly wattles and some sort of rush. The heavy metals in the river beds are a real problem. It won't be solved in my lifetime.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Tamed and untamed

What a lovely state Tasmania is. We've had delightful weather so she's looking her best.

The Black Ducks are obviously used to being fed so mother brought her ducklings up to the motel door as well. I'd much prefer to see them a little wilder.

Day one we explored South Arm. I've never been there before so it was great to see miles of exposed mud flats (I don't have a telescope with me of course) and wonderful views of Hobart and Mt Wellington. A new road sign for me - Oystercatchers aren't in such big numbers where I come from. Definitely a place to revisit.

And today we drove up past Mt Field to Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon. Not really lakes of course, but dams. It was interesting to see the places we've read about so much about over the last 30 years, and sad to imagine the beautiful lake drowned below to waters of Pedder. I wasn't really expecting to find the rugged mountain ranges - I thought it would be a plateau for some reason. Maybe I was thinking of the plains further south. We drove through bush most of the way up to the dams but I didn't see too many mature trees because the loggers (and fire) have been there first.

Off to the west coast tomorrow.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Heading south

It's been great reading the blogs put up by my favourite Aussie bloggers over the last few weeks but I've been too busy to get out and about myself. Daughter #2 has been staying with us since before Christmas preparing to move to Thailand for a year as one of the 150 Youth Ambassadors that our government send overseas each year. She left last week, my casual job is in abeyance for a few weeks and several other distractions have moved into the 'finished' pile so I find myself a little more free. Tomorrow we're off to Tassie for two weeks. Yoohoo! And for the first time ever I'm taking a laptop so I'll be able to download my photos and upload to the blog and Flickr. That's the plan anyway. Cya.