Sunday, 29 November 2009

A dainty moth

Tipanaea patulella (2), originally uploaded by boobook48.

We were meant to be searching for frogs around a dam at Bambra but I got distracted by the beautiful little white moths flying around the rushes and grass.

They were Tipanaea patulella. Apparently the caterpillars bore into the stem of rushes.

PS I tried out something new for this blog - I uploaded the photo and comments from my Flickr page. It was easy peasy. (Except I see that the original photo title comes up in tiny font underneath the photo which I don't think is really necessary, and the tags didn't come across either.)

PPS And I've just discovered that when you click on the photo to view large it takes you straight to my Flickr page where you have to click on the 'All sizes' option.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The greengrocer pays me a visit

This morning I drew back the curtains on the sliding door and was faced with this huge insect hanging on to the flywire screen _ bit of a shock when I hadn't even had my coffee!

It's a Greengrocer Cicada Cyclochila australasiae, green form. Other colour variations are Blue Moon (turquoise form), Chocolate Soldier (dark tan form), Masked Devil, Yellow Monday (yellow form). They're common and found (or should I say heard) up the east coast of Australia. And they're big _ its wing span is about 13 cm.

I was about to move it to a tree for a different photograph but it flew away when I moved the door. Oh well, now I can have my coffee.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A bird's nest of a different kind

Several weeks ago we did a plant survey on roadside vegetation near Barwon Downs but as usual we got distracted by insects, birds and fungi. Rosalind found these tiny fungi cups on a very small stick. I photographed them and went back to photographing plants. When we saw the photos on the computer we realised that they were Bird's-nest Fungi (species unknown but possibly Nidula emodensis). If you look carefully at the second photo you can see the peridioles scattered on the wood, presumably by raindrops. I've never seen one before, and would love to see a fresh one. I didn't realise they were so small.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A bearded orchid

The references state that this beard-orchid flowers through the spring into January but it was a bit of surprise when we found one last weekend at Bambra. Actually Barry, the birdwatcher, spotted it while we, the botanists, were sitting next to it at lunch time. Luckily we weren't actually sitting on it.

It's the Purple Beard-orchid Calochilus robertsonii, and it is quite common in this district. We had the reference books out trying to turn it into something unusual but didn't succeed. It's beautiful of course, what orchid isn't?

Sunday, 15 November 2009


The property owner told our group that they had a resident Red-bellied Black Snake on their property near Bambra. After we'd completed plant surveys, set out the mammal-traps and collected the insect traps we decided to have a look for the snake because they are not usually seen in the area. A snake was found on a dam bank but it turned out to be a dark Lowlands Copperhead Austrelaps superbus. We were delighted to see it catch and eat a frog (click on second photo to view large). We were also surprised to see it swim deep under the water rather than on the surface. PS. For the benefit of non-Australian readers, these snakes are dangerously venemous.

Dragonflies and damselfies

Last week the insects were flying in the long and lush grass on our farm at Homerton, including these three. (I really will have to buy that dragonfly book.) Maybe one of you, my fellow bloggers, will know what they are. Update: The second one is possibly a teneral (i.e. newly emerged) Wandering Percher Diplacodes bipunctata, and the first and third Metallic Ringtails Austrolestes cingulatus. Thanks D.

And today at Bambra these little beauties were patrolling a dam (the same one mentioned in my latest tweet - in the bar at right). Update: I think this damselfly is a male Ischnura aurora (Coenagrionidae).

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The thrill of the triller

OMG! I've been watching the birds on our farm near Heywood for 25 years but the last two days have been the best.

Our farm is open grassland paddocks leased to a dairy farmer, and a bush block, the whole surrounded by other areas of bush. The house paddock also has trees and shrubs. After years of drought and dry weather the last twelve months have been about normal (whatever that is now), the rainfall near or just below average. The vegetation has responded well and the pasture looks green and lush - so different to the paddocks around here in Geelong.

We went down to the farm for a couple of days this week and I had a great time observing the birds. They were everywhere, calling all day and building nests. I saw 60 species on our farm - and missed seeing some I normally see so the total could have been higher if I'd got up earlier:) The best were Brown Songlark, Rufous Songlark patrolling the house paddock continually, nesting Sacred Kingfishers, nesting White-winged Trillers in the house paddock, Swamp Harrier (not seen here for many years), Olive-backed Oriole, Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, Dusky Woodswallow, White-necked Heron and Tree Martin. I dipped on Restless Flycatcher, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Red-browed Firetail, Grey Currawong, White-eared Honeyeater and Mistletoebird - all of which I usually see.

Because the triller was building a nest in a tree in the house paddock I was able to take my coffee and binoculars out and sit in the shade and just watch. It was fun to see the male triller collecting cobweb, lichen and bark, to see it attacking a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo that ventured into the nest tree, to see it sitting on the nest (to try it out for size?). I never saw the female. Unfortunately we couldn't stay to see the next installment. And I didn't have time to search for the Rufous Songlark's nest - I'm guessing it was or will be in the long grass near the fence. We're back there over New Year but all the fun will be over by then. Maybe.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Spring fungi in the damp forest

When we were in the Otways looking for the Thismia last weekend (see last blog) we found quite a few different types of fungi as well. The mulch was damp, it was shady and there were quite a few understory shrubs and ferns present as well. In fact there was so much fungi there that it made me wonder why I haven't done more 'fungi forays' at this time of the year.

The first is a small stemmed black cup fungi, only a centimetre or two wide, possibly Plectania (or Peziza). We found quite a lot of this, often completely covered in mulch.

In an open but shaded area next to a path we found a beautiful coral fungus in various shades of pink and deep purple. It's possibly a Clavaria. The insects seem to like it as well. My friend Polly thinks it could be Clavaria zollingeri which 'is usually found amongst decaying litter under tree-ferns' (Fuhrer) - which this one was.

The tiny blue Chlorociboria was growing on a piece of stick in the mulch. Apparently one species stains the wood blue and another doesn't. We didn't look that closely - it was hard to concentrate on the fungi when the Thismia was claiming our attention.

PS A friend has just forwarded me a photo she took on the day and it definitely shows blue staining on the wood so I think it's a safe bet that it is C. aeruginascens.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Looking for a needle in the haystack

They said it was impossible. 'Good luck', they said. 'Best of British luck.' But we pressed on.

Our plan was to search for a Fairy Lantern Thismia rodwayi in the wet forests of Great Otway National Park. Rosalind reasoned that because it grows in Tasmania and eastern Victoria it was a possibility that it would also be present in the Otways, given that Victoria and Tasmania were connected by a land bridge only 15 000 years ago. So she organised a bunch of us to go down there last weekend. It's a very big park but the search technique for this plant is to each take a one-square metre quadrat (that's one square metre!), carefully lift of the mulch and look underneath for this tiny plant. It might be red, but it's only a centimetre of two high. If no Thismia was present we moved on to another quadrat.

At our second site we were successful. It's a beautiful and unusual plant, aptly named Fairy Lantern. We found eleven plants in all, over two days. Naturally we were very excited. It was all good fun.

The first image is of an immature plant, the second is mature.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

More bush creatures

This beautiful little Lauxaniidae fly was on a bush-pea at Blanket Leaf picnic ground in the Otways - I think it's Pultenaea mollis and the little yellow slime worm was under the mulch.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Small delights

The Great Otway National Park is big, very big, and diverse. Last weekend we explored some of the wet forest areas. These are some of the small beetles we saw. The first is a Scarab beetle, the Eucalyptus Chafer Xylonichus eucalypti. I don't know identity of the other two as yet. The butterfly is a Forest Brown Argynnina cryila.

Update: The second beetle is a darkling beetle Lepispilus rotundicollis, the red and black insect is a Lycid beetle.