Sunday, 29 January 2012

Happy Anniversary, house

I realised today that it was just exactly 5 years ago that we first walked in the door as owners of the property.  What a good idea that was!  Here, more or less as a traditional diary-blog, are a few notes and photos of the day.

I shall begin with some pretties from the garden.  The first are some oriental lilies with a white one in the foreground and the much taller maroon ones to the back.
 These pineapple lilies used to lurk in the background.  Frances has put them in pots and they can now be appreciated.
These are known as N@ked L@dies (that should fool profanity filters, assuming they are as stupid as most security mechanisms).
Staying around the house, the small dog joined us about 3.5 years ago.  Here she is, sitting on my lap scanning the lawn for wabbits.
Looking out the window myself I spotted some Striated Thornbills having a bath.  The following are not great images but all amuse me for one reason or another.  The first shows them poised on the perch ...
 .. this is more interesting for the trail of water as it takes off ...
 .. and this shows the wingspread rather well.  The one staying on the rim shows some of the features of the species also.  ( A better image for ID purposes in on my Carwoola Birds site.)
I have become interested in insects in the last couple of years and here are some images from today.  The first two are of a hoverfly  - firstly hovering off a Bursaria and then dining on same.

 This one is a honeybee: mainly because I haven't taken a photo of a honeybee and this nicely shows the pollen stuck to its tarsus.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Things loose in the top paddock

A few posts back I mentioned the insects gathered on some Bursaria growing fairly close to our house.  On a walk with the small dog I noticed another spinney of this prickly species.

A little later in the day I took myself and the small dog back there to see what was happening  in the way of photographic subjects in the upper part of the block.  As it was somewhat warm (30C) the small dog wimped after a short while so I got some extra exercise doing the trip twice.

Here are the images I captured that seem to be worthwhile bothering you with.  I will offer a viewer advisory - especially for folk who are little in the arachnophobic direction - that a couple of the images below show a close up of a spider doing business with a fiddle beetle.  The beetle still alive so there is no need for an advisory about dead things.

First is a Flower Scarab (Polystigma punctata).  It was unusual to find one of these, on Bursaria, to stay still long enough to be photographed.
 Next we have a Fiddle Beetle (Eupoecila australasiae)  grazing contentedly on the bush.  Again unusual to find one still.  Possibly due to the heat they were doing a lot of flying around, with a loud buzzing sound - like doodlebugs?
Nearby, one fiddle beetle had been a tad unfortunate in its choice of flight path.  It was still wriggling, but the spider was giving its full attention to remedying that situation.

The next three images are of what I suspect to be a longicorn beetle (family Cerambycinae): it certainly has long antennae.  This is clearest in the third, head-on shot.  From looking at the Chew family site I suspect it is a Flower longicorn -Aridaeus thoracicus. 

 The next is a butterfly - unfortunately a Cabbage White Pieris rapae
 A Pintail beetle (Hoshihananomia leucosticta or Mordella leucosticta - the taxonomists have been active again) or so I believe in view of the extended abdominal segment behind the elytra.
 I believe this next image is of a moth.  The most outstanding feature is the extraordinary length of the antennae.

The next image is of a large flywhich landed on a non-flowering plant.  I suspect it is a robber fly (family Asilidae).
On the way back home i passed one of our smaller dams and found to my delight that the native water lilies Ottelia ovalifolia were flowering.  Even better, I got in focus images of the them!

For the benefit (?) of those who do not have Strine as a first language I should explain the double meaning of the title of this post.
  1. The post obviously and mainly deals with the arthropods that were unrestrained in the upper part of our property.  They are free to come and go so to that extent are loose (apart from the one caught in the spider web);
  2. There are many Australian expressions implying someone is a little low in the intellect stakes.  "Not the full 2 bob", "a shingle short of a roof" are common examples as is " a few roos loose in the top paddock".  One might say that describes a punter wandering through spiky bushes at 30 degrees!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Rainfall (or lack thereof)

At the start of this month (January 2012) I checked the 28 Day rainfall forecast on the Elders site.   The image it generated was very similar to this one (from 27 January):
However when my friend Denis sought my view about rainfall a bit east of here I had to answer that I really didn't know since it seemed that we has had no rain when it has bucketted down in Canberra and that they had had none when we had accumulated the pittance that has arrived since Christmas.  I tried to get some further information about the area he was particularly interested in from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) climate data pages but all the small stations seem to report at the end of the month rather than daily.  (That is my interpretation of the lack of information for January 2012 for all except the automatic stations.)

In separate conversations with other folk a common comment is that the forecasters keep talking about showers and storms but they have never arrived.  So I thought I would get a bit of data and see what is going on. My records are in the first column while BoM data for three automatic stations gives an idea of the variation around the area.

Date Carwoola Airport Tuggeranong Braidwood  race course
0 0 0
0 0 0.2
0 0 0
0 0
0 0 0.4
0 0 0.6
0 0 0.2
8-Jan 6.7 3.8 1.4 3
1.2 0.2 0.4
0 0 0
0 0 0
0.4 0.6 0
0 0 0
0 0.4 0.2
0 0.6 0.2
0 0.2 0
0 0 0.2
0 0 0
0 0 0.4
20-Jan 2.5 0 0 0
24.2 42.2 3.8
22-Jan 2.0 0.2 2 1.2
0 0 2
0.2 0 0
0 0 0.2
0 0.2 0
Total 11.2 30.0 47.8 13.0
Raindays 3 6 9 14
My own record keeping is not on exactly the same rigorous 9am - 8:59am daily routine as the BoM stations which may account for a small amount of the variability, but the table shows that we have had falls on less days than any of the other 3 stations and particularly that we missed the big storm on the 21st.  Braidwood, closer to Denis's area of interest has had many more damp days but achieved a similar modest total to us.

In the meantime, NE NSW is getting flooded again.  So far in January Coffs harbour has received 320mm over 14 days.  Possibly it is moving down the Coast in which case we could get a bit starting Sunday!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A plague on your Yellow Box!

I have mentioned the infestations of Plague Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus lugubris) in a few posts, most recently this one.  This afternoon I noticed the heavy blossom load on the huge ( perhaps 30m high, estimated to be >200 years old) Yellow Box (Eucalyptus meliodora) tree in our lawn.
Then my eye strayed down to the branches above the daisies featured in the earlier post.  Hooley, and also Dooley!  There were masses of beetles up there.
This next shot gives a closer view of one of the dark masses of beetles.
I am intrigued that thus far there doesn't seemed to be anything predating the beetles.  Perhaps they are so widespread that birds and other insects cannot keep up with the work?  It seems that at present the beetles are restricted to the lower levels of the tree, perhaps up to 10m above the ground.

By 30 January the number of beetles  in the tree had declined somewhat but there were still masses on the daisies and lawn underneath the tree.  In the middle of the afternoon on the 31st - by which time a strong breeze had arisen - I noticed that all the beetles had gone.  No idea why.  From talking with an entomologist it appears the insects are rather like an Australian saying about wombats: "Eats, roots, shoots and leaves.".  Generally after the breeding activity they die, but I can find no trace of the corpses.

ANPS ties up to a Bollard

Today the ANPS crew went to Mt Bollard in Tallaganda National Park.  (This followed a reconnaissance trip almost exactly a year ago.)  A large group (27) rolled up and a surprisingly large proportion (10 of us) ascended the steep bit at the end.  Obviously the peak flowering season was over but some nice flowers and especially orchids were found.  There were lots of other interesting things as well but we'll deal with general habitat and plants first.

The first couple of kms from the cars seemed to be a bit undulating on the way in, but after the ascent of the peak seemed quite flat on the way back.  In both directions the main tree cover is Eucalyptus dives.
That habitat is shown in the background to "father of the day" - OK the typo is deliberate (for once)  - left behind by a Superb Lyrebird.

On reaching the base of the Mountain itself the track turned skywards through much larger trees (Eucalyptus fastigata, E. radiata and E. dalrympleana) with little understorey - I presume that when water falls on a 1:3.5 (28%)  slope it doesn't hang around to facilitate shrub growth.  This shows a view from about 1/3rd the way up (or indeed, down) with the less hardy (aka more sensible) souls visible at the foot of the peak.
At the top we were into Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow gums) and while flat, there was not a lot of soil as indicated by the rocky outcrops.

Some details of plants, beginning with the dicotyledons.  The commonest flower of the day was IMHO the lovely purple Comesperma ericinum.
 The Dianella had all finished flowering but these berries on D tasmanica - I think - were very attractive.
 We now move to Persoonias.  P chamaepeuce is a low growing, almost prostrate plant
 while P silvatica is a reasonable sized bush.
 At the top of the hill/cliff we found this plant which I originally labelled "not-Pimelia" but was in fact Platysace lanceolata.
Right at the start of the track in was a yellow Stackhousia viminea.
Now to  deal with the orchids.  The first of these was found by a member well away from the track.  This was a Chiloglottis trilabra,
 and it was suggested that this removed the key justification for going up the mountain.  No, no!  The key justification is indeed 'Because it is there'!  However once up we found and snapped several more of this species.

At base camp those who didn't ascend found a good collection of Diplodium dercurvum, the aptly named Summer Greenhood.

We also found two examples of Thynninorchis huntiana, an elbow orchid.  As I have already got a good image of this I didn't join the queue to snap the first and was a good distance away when Frances found the second and took a photo (from the randy wasp's view).

Arthropods were very prevalent.  I suspect several members had a spider sandwich while walking off -piste.  Here we have some arachnids at work.

Of course they only get to be that big if they eat lots of stuff.  Here we have another spider doing the eating bit.
The less fortunate member of this duo is the larva of a Chrysomelid leaf beetle.  If it had not been elected "nosh du jour" by the spider it might have grown into something pretty like this.
A luckier (thus far) larval stage is this one, with an overall view and a close up of the front end:

The final arthropodic addition to this post is a lantern fly: actually a leaf-hopper.
Not all the animals were tiny.  This one was about 1.2m long
It was a Yellow-bellied Black Snake, often called a Copperhead.  Rather venomous, but also very keen to remove itself from our presence. 

There were a few birds around but not a great abundance.  This possibly reflects the limited range of insects (which probably reflects the limited range of flowers.

To finish there was only one fungus seen all day.  I don't think it is an Amanita sp but still wouldn't cook it!