Friday, 17 April 2015

April insects

As the weather cools down the number and range of invertebrates around the ranch are decreasing.  The Giant Willow Aphids have vanished from the willows by Whiskers Creek, and there hasn't been a swarm anywhere that I can see since 2nd April.

However I have got a few images that I thought worth dropping into a post.

This moth (Phalaenoides glycinae) was investigating Dahlias rather than grape vines.
 I am pretty sure this is a caterpillar of a Tiger Moth (family Arctiidae).

 A late season Potter wasp (family Vespidae) taking a tour of the boot of our VW.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A mix of clouds and sunshine

That seems to be the standard weather forecast: basically covers all options and pretty much matches most weather in the Canberra area.  It was certainly appropriate for the first few illuminated hours of 16 April.  I really like cloud patterns and hope you do as well!

Here comes the sun!  This was taken just outside our house looking to the east at about 0620.
 A slightly different angle but almost the same time as the previous snap.
 By 0740 we were down at Captains Flat Rd on our dog walk.  Here was the cloudy and con-traily view across the Hoskinstown Plain.
Add on 10 minutes and the cloud was looking somewhat like an alien starship with vapour trails all over the sky.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

COG does McKellar and Giralang Ponds

30 members and guests assembled at the car park of the Belconnen Soccer Club for a walk around some of the damper parts of this area of Belconnen.  This snip from Google Earth shows the various spots, with 1 being the car park.  The other numbers appear as red  in the text below.

Once all had signed on and announced themselves we first headed to a little known pond 2 in the Northern section of this open space.   The recent rains had restored some liquidity to this site.   Including the "car park list" we scored 16 species here - all pretty much as expected.
Knowing that the main McKellar Pond 3 was the haunt of Australasian Bittern and Australian Little Bittern we took ourselves off  in that direction.    It was also pretty well supplied with water.
Alas, neither of the aforementioned rarities were present.  Several more expected waterbirds were added together with Red-browed Finch and European Goldfinch.  As we moved towards the underpass to Ginninderra Creek a recently killed Nankeen Night-Heron was found.  
For various reasons I published this image well before completing the blog.  I got an almost instant comment asking about likely cause of death.  A fox seemed to be the most likely suspect although when the cadaver was first noticed it was being dragged around by an Australian Raven.

On getting under the road and onto the Creek, 4 at least two White-faced Herons were controlling the frog population in the Creek ...
... and a Collared Sparrowhawk zapped past.  There was a good flow in the Creek following the rains but no exotic waterbirds were seen.  Auatralian Reed Warblers were heard making some of their quieter calls .  Making no calls at all - very surprisingly for this species - was a flock of 20 Little Corellas.
Our arrival at the Giralang Pond 5 was rewarded by a Royal Spoonbill which moved around the pond eating as it went.  
A Spotted Dove flew past and a rather late Shining Bronze-Cuckoo was disturbed from a tree on the Northern side of the pond.  Two raptors, identified as Collared Sparrowhawks, appeared to be in a courtship display fairly high above us.

We then passed under William Slim Drive to inspect the Palmerville area,6 hoping, unsuccessfully, for Cisticolas.  We did note our only flock of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters for the day here.

Looking at other matters this European Wasp's nest was one of three spotted in the vicinity of the McKellar Ponds.  It was reported to TAMS who provided the contractor's phone number and hopefully will do something about the problem.
Less threatening was this leaf beetle dining on a Casuarina amongst all the sooty mould.
Here are some pupae of the beetles.
Autumn is happening and so is pretty foliage.
Several members commented that they had not previously been to the areas we visited today.  Hardly any of us had been to the final area!   This forest was a major surprise: unfortunately my net searching has been unable to find out anything about the area from the websites of either Landcare or the Conservation Volunteers,
It seems to be an area where trees are planted as memorials to folk - how or why there are selected is a mystery.
A bit further in is a heritage area - essentially a paddock where there was once the settlement of Palmerville.  At least this document gives an idea of what was there even though little of it is now visible.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Traces of decidulation (and aphids)

Autumn is definitely underway and the willows along Whiskers Creek are reacting in the tradional way with yellowing and falling leaves.
What we have noticed this year, for the first time is that where the leaves have fallen on the drive, and then been blown away is that they have left traces behind, which look rather like heron tracks.
 On the concrete of the Creek crossing the traces are more the traditional stains of leaf rot.
My suspicion is that these traces reflect the leaves being covered with honeydew following the invasion of Giant Willow Aphids (Tuberolachnus salignus) for the past 3 months.  The fall of honeydew from the trees was such that the gravel of the drive stuck to our tyres the first time we drove through the shade of the trees each morning.  The aphids have now disappeared for Winter but I expect them back next Spring.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Avoidance strategies of Ducks

What do ducks do when their preferred habitat is disrupted by, for example, a big loader doing road works about 20m away?
In the case of the famous Plumed Whistling Ducks of Trucking Yard Lane you move to the other side of an earth bank and stack some Zs.
 What if cattle decide to come and drink out of the Bungendore Meadow Dam?
 You stop sleeping on the bank and take to the water if you are a Grey Teal.
If you are an Australian Shelduck you go somewhere else (such as Lake George, about 5km away)!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Mainly watercourses after long rains

We have been through a couple of rather dry months, which led to no flow in the 2 creeks on our block.  That ended on 6 April when we scored 18mm of rain (all of which sank into the ground with little or no run off).  It was followed by 43mm on the 7th and 21mm before dawn on the 8th.  That did run off.

A side effect of this was the postponement of the ANPS Wednesday Walk for the 8th so I went a did a few chores.

As a result of the first chore I strolled down Yass Rd in Queanbeyan to the ACT border.
 The bridge in this image carries the railway line into Canberra.  It also marks pretty much the border of the ACT: I suspect this is a coincidence of interests as the easiest route for the line is to follow the Molonglo which is the border a little to the East.  There was not a pile of stunned birds under the bridge: despite the rulings of some administrators they fly back and forth as though the border didn't exist.

The Molonglo is nearby and had a very good flow as it went under Yass Rd (which has probably changed to Pialligo Avenue when it crossed the border),
This is the old crossing.  A bit narrow for the current level of traffic and rather prone to getting submerged.
On the subject of submerged, here is Briars-Sharrow Rd which I encountered when attempting to go to Bungendore on another chore.  I suspect the sluices have been opened on the Captains Flat Dam.
 The "wading depth" of my Pajero is 70cm and I decided that this was 75cm deep.
There was also a very strong current so I decided that discretion was the better part of stupidity and went via the Kings Highway.  Several kilometres longer, but much quicker than getting the SES to drag me out of the crossing.

While in Bungendore I went to check the Whistling Duck situation which was very positive with 78 birds present.  The dam on Trucking Yard Lane was well supplied with water and they seemed to be finding something to eat in the grass.
Judging by the good flow on the Queanbeyan River as it goes over the weir I suspect the sluices have also been opened at Googong Dam.
There was still a lot of clean air under the Morrisett St bridge.  In the bad floods a few years back the water level would have been well over the railings on the bridge.
The water level in the weir had dropped quite a bit a couple of days later, but still a good flow.

Whiskers Creek didn't go over our drive but did have a good flow in it.  This image was taken at about 11am and at peak - probably about 5am - had covered the grassy patch on the right.
In the afternoon I went up the block to check the situation there.  A good flow in the secondary creek there.
The most interesting aspect of this is the revealed geology.  Below the waterfall (perhaps 50cm high) there is a flat sheet of bedrock.  That is overlain by a layer with many pebbles showing an old water level.  A bit further upstream the pebbles are still the floor of the watercourse.  Then there is a layer of soil suggesting that something - probably roots - has slowed the waterflow allowing the soil to be deposited.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Check before you chuck

On 7 April I seized the moment between rain periods (we totaled 43mm for the day) to do some digging in the garden.  Frances came to see me bearing, not gifts but an old potting soil bag,  She said there was a frog in there which she thought, correctly, I'd like to see and possibly photograph.

As my hands were covered with dirt from pulling out weeds I didn't want to handle the camera but opened up the bag while Frances did the photography.  There was Uncle Frog.
Instead of hanging around for a better image the frog dived down into the garbage in the bottom of the bag.  On pulling out the crud I discovered that there was also a couple of small, hyperactive skinks in there.  It wasn't possible to snap any of them in the bag but after tipping them out on to the ground a nice shot of the frog was obtained.
Closing in on its front end the large toe pads of a tree-frog are visible. I think it is also possible to see the cross-shaped pupil that signifies Peron's Tree-frog.
So the message is to always check the garbage: you might be surprised by what is in there.