Friday, 31 March 2017

A little more nature study

Yesterday morning was fairly humid so a spider web stood out well.  Note the rolled up leaf (aka spider roost) in the centre of the web.

Late on the afternoon of the 31st March Frances noticed a leg-challenged reptile on our nice sunny bank
Once it had passed on its way I went back and measured a conveniently placed rock.
I reckon the rock is about 1/4 of the length of the snake which makes it about 1.4m long.  Not gigantic, but a good size for a red-belly.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Trees get furry

I had expected that sometime after the fire many of the eucalypts would display their adaptation to fire by sprouting from the small buds that lurk below their bark.  (The technical name is epicormic buds.)  I had noticed a few examples of this in the recent past but today it all seemed to be happening.

This brown tree is a Eucalyptus stellulata (Black Sallee), which I planted soon after moving as being a more or less native species with great frost tolerance.
 Seems to have good fire tolerance also, as it has sprouts.
 E. meliodora (Yellow Box).  A small specimen compared to many on the block.
 A very nice shoot.
 E. macrorhyncha (Red Stringybark).  A very common species in the area.
These buds have obviously been growing for a few days.
 E. viminalis (Ribbon Gum).  This row were planted for dust control along a no longer used right of way.
 They are sprouting nicely from the trunk, rather than the branches.
 Many of the large E. polyanthemos (Red Box) by the Creek appear to have kept most of their foliage.  These saplings don't look too good from a distance ...
 .. but are sprouting nicely from the lignotuber.
That situation is repeated in our top paddock where there are many saplings growing in the formerly grazed area.

Another tree which has been well incinerated is also sprouting from the root rather than the superstructure.
I was stimulated to look for signs of epicormicity by seeing this sight a bit further up Whiskers Creek Rd this morning.
 We wondered if it was epicormic shoots or lichen.  I didn't have either my better camera or my bins with me, and the iPhone doesn't do long range. This afternoon I went back and resolved the matter to the former.
 On the way home I glanced at some shoots on the willows,  Then I looked up and suddenly realised that the willows had lost all their yellow leaves and were back in full spring-like green-ness.
 Not a tree, but it's nice to see Lomandra longifolia poking forth.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

You can't keep a good Photinia robusta down

In another forum I included a photo of a row of Photinia robusta growing on our secondary lawn, much like the one below.
We had decided to wait and see what happens with regrowth, but were not optimistic about those close to the camera.

Looking more closely today I found signs of regrowth in most of the bushes.

 This one looks really dead?
 Not so!!  Despite the pruning scar being brown and brittle it is pumping out some leaves.
 This one survived best: check the regrowth on the RHS.
What makes this even more pleasing is that last Winter our local Swampies browsed the daylights out of these shrubs and they had only just started to recover from that.  One tough species.

I am not genusist however.  Check out this scorched Melaleuca.  Gone for all money?
 Nope, just girding its loins!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Ants are go

When I was a kid growing up in darkest Essex on Summer evenings we observe swarms of flying ants heading skywards.  Typically they were soon attacked by a flock - sometimes 100+ birds - of Black-headed Gulls.

This afternoon we went for a walk up the block, looking for field mushrooms.  What we found everywhere was the meat-eating ant Iridomyrmex purpureus nests were about to swarm.  Every nest we came across ...
 ... was a heaving mass of insects.  We first noticed the shimmer of the wings,
 ... but on getting closer it was apparent that the vast majority of the insects were unwinged.
They were, as usual for this species very aggressive and I soon fled, with numbers of ants all over my boots - and heading upwards.

Thus far I haven't seen any activity by potential predators.

Wildlife and washoff

We have been getting some nice rain recently (although according to my correspondent Paddy Hanrahan we need more).  This has led to an outbreak of fungi along Widgiewa Rd.
Later in the day we came across a puffball ...
 .. and some field mushrooms.
The weather has also caused frogs to be very evident in and around the house.  On a recent evening I found these 2 sitting at the bottom of a window.
 My best guess at an ID for this one was a Broad-palmed Frog (Litoria latopalmata) but on listening to its call I have never hard anything like that on our property.  My second guess is Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera) which is quite common in the area.  However a Frogwatch expert has identified it as Litoria verreauxii- whistling tree frog
 The other is a Perons Tree Frog (Litoria peronii) aka The Usual Suspect).
Interestingly, this morning 21 March we went to check that the water pumped satisfactorily to the main tank and found a Peron's Tree Frog sitting on the float in the big tank.  No idea how it got there!

The early morning (around 5am) of 21 March was notable for a pretty severe thunderstorm.  This dropped 7.6mm of rain on us in about 10 minutes.  A first consequence was scouring on the drive.
 A second consequence was washing a lot of charcoal flakes into the Creek!

It seemed that most of this black stuff came down from a small gully which I have never noticed running when it was vegetated.
Looking at a topo map suggests the catchment of this gully is as shown by the red dashed line.

Switching to Google Earth gives this polygon for the catchment of the gully, which measures 2.8Ha.  
 I hope in what follows I have got my zeroes right.  2.8 Hectares is 28,000 square metres and putting 7.6mm of water on to that gives 212.8 cubic metres of wet stuff.  This resolves to 212,000 litres of water arriving almost instantaneously on a baked, largely vegetation-free landscape.  No wonder there was a bit of run-off!

(Another way of looking at 212.8 cubic metres is an ice cube 6m to a side!)

After lunch another storm came through dumping 10+mm of rain in short order (taking the day's total to 17.8mm).  Here is the gully discussed above shortly thereafter.
A few metres upstream more water was flowing in:
A few more shots of the runoff.  This is runoff channeled around the garden which ends up coming down beside the drive.
 Heavy flow in the creek.
 Runoff from the Northern side of block coming into the Creek.
For various reasons I ended up later in the day on Captains Flat Rd where Whiskers Creek goes under the road.  The soot etc hasn't made it that far yet - although I suspect the liquid has an unusual chemical composition.  The first image looks North (towards the Molonglo) ...
 ... and the second South (ie towards home).