Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An interesting moth on my front porch

Two nights ago, just as I was shutting down for the night, well after midnight, I noticed this interesting moth on my front verandah. I managed to snap a few images of it.
I did what I often do, and wandered through numerous photos of moths on the Internet, and guess (wrongly as it turned out) that it might have been a member of the Thaliana genus, as several moths I found in that group had similar strong triangulated markings like my moth.
Thanks to advice from the moth forum which Duncan kindly set up a little while back, I can now report that this moth is named Fodina ostorius, of the Catocalinae (sub-family), which puts it into the Noctuidae family. Thanks to Ian McMillan for setting me straight on this.

This link will take you to "Australian Moths Online" - the general gallery page. You need to search by moth name, or genus, or family. But the gallery is a valuable resource, to search for "similar" moths - not that such "look-alike" searches are reliable (as I discovered). I would not have arrived at a correct ID, without help from an experienced person such as Ian.
Here is the specific link to this species: Fodina ostorius.

From Don Herbison-Evans' Moths and Caterpillars site (the scientific name index page), I was able to search by specific name, and went straight to this page. The advantage here is that it has a photo of a live moth, as well of a preserved specimen. It is clearly a perfect match for my moth.

Don often has some notes about preferred food plants of the speciific Caterpillars. In this case, it shows the Milk Vine, Marsdenia as a preferred food plant. The local Robertson Rain Forest is well supplied with Marsdenia vines, so it makes sense that I should have been visited by this moth.The colouration on the body of this moth is a frequently used 'warning signal" (such as of a wasp or a bee). I have no idea if it is indeed a poisonous moth. It is more likely that it is the commonly adopted "Batesian Mimicry" where a palatable species resembles an unpalatable species, or one with a sting, or poison. Personally, I have no desire to test this theory, but will not eat any moth which looks like a wasp, no matter how fat and tasty it might be in reality.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cryptostylis hunteriana - a rare Ground Orchid

Today I was shown some specimens of the rare ground orchid, Cryptostylis hunteriana, the "Leafless Tongue Orchid".This plant is one of those Orchids which gather their food supply by having a relationship with a fungus in the ground, rather than through photosynthesis. They are commonly described as "saprophytic", however, as Wikipedia points out, given that fungi are no longer regarded as part of the plant kingdom, these plants ought technically be classed as Myco-heterotrophs. That name refers to "a symbiotic relationship between certain kinds of plants and fungi, in which the plant gets all or part of its food from parasitism upon fungi rather than from photosynthesis. A myco-heterotroph is the parasitic plant partner in this relationship".

Plants which do not rely on photosynthesis generally do not have leaves, which means they live underground for nearly all the year, emerging above ground only in order to be pollinated, and to spread their seeds. So, without leaves, it is very hard (if not impossible) to locate, except when it is in flower. But Alan tells me that many plants which have been recorded in previous years, are not flowering this year. So, any survey for these plants is always subject to the vagaries of irregular flowering behaviour.

Under-side of the labellum, which is held vertically.
It has rolled edges, in a vertical plane, almost rolled back into a circular shape.
But it is not reflexed, unlike its closely related Cryptostylis leptochila.
This plant is a threatened species, listed as "vulnerable" under the Federal EPBC Act. Alan Stephenson, who showed me around several known locations for this rare Orchid today, has written several articles about his on-going battle to protect this Species, and several others also threatened by development proposals in the Shoalhaven Shire (near Nowra and Jervis Bay).

The Tongue Orchids, as a group are popular with researchers from many fields - entomologists, botanists and bio-chemical researchers who have worked to define the chemicals involved in their scent production, in order to confuse male wasps into the pollination process, involving "pseudo-copulation". One such researcher is Anne Gaskett, from Macquarie University, who is studying these plants from the point of view of examining their mimicry and sexual deception.

Labellum seen from side-on.
This particular Tongue Orchid has an extremely hairy labellum, with fine bristles all over the exposed underside of the labellum. Here you can seethe fine bristles covering the labellum. You can also see the pollinia within the "column" of the Orchid.
My friend Colin, from "Retired Aussies dot com" has a set of very good photos of this species, from East Gippsland, Victoria. According to Colin, this plant is also known as the "Furred Tongue Orchid" which seems an appropriate name.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kayaking on Kangaroo River

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to join my friends Kim and Peter on a kayaking trip on the Kangaroo River.

We hired the Kayaks from the Camping Ground in the centre of the village. Mike fitted us with life jackets, and then put the Kayaks on the trailer to take us down to the river, just above the historic Hampden Bridge at the Kangaroo River crossing.

This Google Earth image shows the Moss Vale Road crossing the Kangaroo River at the top right corner of the image. That is where the Hampden Bridge is. At the left, where the Bendeela Road meets the River, that's where our rendezvous point was.
We were told to go down the river until we came to the Bendeela Camping Ground, go to the second beach past the main Camping Ground (but not to go as far as the Bendeela Pumping Station). I made a joke about not trusting myself to go there, because I would want to spray paint it with graffiti, like "Don't pump the water to Sydney - leave it in the Shoalhaven River". My comment drew an appreciative nod, which is hardly surprising, in Kangaroo Valley where the locals are very politicised about Sydney and Shoalhaven water issues. Of course, I am not a graffitist. I do my campaigning on a more direct basis.

Back to the kayaking ... Mike made allowances for us to take two and a half hours, on the river, but in fact we did not need as long as that.

The Kangaroo River was quite low- about 9 inches (approx 240mm) below the normal level, judging by the normal "high water " marks on the rocks. This soon became an issue for us, especially me, as I was grounding on the rocky base of the river very soon after we started off.

Once we passed under the old bridge, we moved out into clear, deep water, and started to drift along, enjoying hearing many birds, and seeing lots of Water Dragons on the rocks and logs in the river. One even swam straight past all of us, so close we could have touched it.

Brush Cuckoos, Fantailed Cuckoos and Black-faced Monarchs (a.k.a. "B-f Flycatchers") were common.

Then we came to more shallows and even a few "rapids". Bearing in mind that our group (especially me) were relatively inexperienced Kayakers (as were the German tourist also on the water with us), any kind of rocky obstructions in the river bed will be classed as "rapids". Sure enough, after negotiating the hardest part of this particular "rapids", I missed avoiding the last two rocks, and got my Kayak caught sideways against these two rocks, and the inevitable happened - I tipped in sideways. Fortunately the water was not deep, and not too fast, so I could stand up safely, and while I hung on to my Kayak, I lost the paddle. Other members of the group retrieved it for me.

Oh, well I figured I had fulfilled my social function on the trip - of being the "Bunny".

Peter noted what I had managed to keep my trademark blue terry-towelling hat dry! I was glad I had not brought my camera with me - or I would not be laughing.

Further down the river, it broadened out, and we saw more birds - White-faced Herons, Black Ducks, Wood Ducks (Maned Ducks a.k.a. Maned Geese.) We also heard many Koels, a few Kookaburras and saw many Dollar Birds, perching right at the tops of River Sheoaks. One (only) Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo flew straight along the river above us, squealing all the way.

Finally, just before we left the Kangaroo River, I saw the one bird I really wanted to see - an Azure Kingfisher. To top off my viewing experience, the bird flew to a low branch, then dived into the water, caught a small fish, and flew back up again. This is the classic Azure Kingfisher experience. Unfortunately Kim missed out on seeing it, even though we doubled back to try to spot the bird again.

For everybody's benefit I will post a link to of Tyto Tony's blog image of exactly such a sighting.

After seeing my iconic bird, I was happy to drift down to our rendezvous point, and wait for Mike to take us back home. A perfect way to spend a holiday morning.

Of course, being in Kangaroo Valley, we finished off with lunch at one of the many cafes there.

A thunderhead was building, and it drifted up the Upper Kangaroo River Valley, and dumped heavy rain on Robertson in the afternoon, for about 30 minutes. Officially we only got 9mm, but I think it might have been more than that, at my place.

Post Script:
I would never wish to camp at the Bendeela Camping Ground, if the patrons who were there yesterday were typical of the clientele. The rest of the trip was wonderful, but I could do without Bendeela Camping Ground.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

More flowers from Cloud Farm

Here are some photos I took on Christmas Day, when at "Cloud Farm". Several are of garden plants, but several are of weeds (such as the Dandelion seed head from yesterday). I do not mean to create the wrong impression by showing lots of weeds, but several of these images are of weeds which just happen to be remarkably beautiful flowers.

Blue Convolvulus - a popular garden plant.
Pink Marguerite Daisy - with a strange combination of pink and orange colours. This serves to remind us that Nature can make up its own "rules" for colour combinations, and get away with it.
See what I mean? This is the "Eye" of the Marguerite. This is a larger image than I normally upload - so click to enlarge it, to see the finer details of the flowers.

Yes, I meant to say "flowers", for the "centre" of all "daisies" is actually a composite flower, made up of many individual flowers. If you enlarge the image you will clearly see the see regular 5-sided flowers around the edge of the orange centre of the "flower". The orange "buttons" are simply "as-yet-unopened" buds of even more flowers.
Here is a Scotch Thistle, yet another "composite flower". It is a truly beautiful flower, despite being a terrible weed in Australia.
And there is also a remarkable creature - a Stick Insect, which is a "pet" (called "Celine"). But it warrants examination for its strange details. The Existentialist reader will be asking: "Strange" - compared to what? Have a look - I think you will get my point.

This Stick Insect is quite different from two other Stick Insects which I have written about previously - both Australian, but only one was a local "wild" individual. It seems these Insects are popular for study in schools and universities.

This insect is Carausius morosus - the "Indian or laboratory stick insect". (*** PLEASE SEE CORRECTION UPDATE BELOW) The body is arched up and forward, (though it does not carry itself that way when "relaxed". The body of this insect seemingly bends in the opposite manner to the way a Prawn might be "folded". As it has no "stinger", this is not the same purpose as a Scorpion's favourite body position when arming itself for attack, although the angle is superficially similar.
Note also the small wings, which are just forming - above the front legs.I was particularly intrigued with the head form, especially where the neck enters the head. Of course, being a vertebrate myself, I assume that all creatures ought be designed around a "spinal cord". This creature is an invertebrate. Maybe that makes a difference in the way in which this insect's head can be "wired up".
This insect looks to me as if it is designed by the people who designed those toys called "Transformers" Check out the details of the leg shape, seeming to aid its leaf camouflage.
The feet are interesting "V shaped" claspers. No doubt very effective in helping the insect to hang on to vegetation high in a tree, under windy conditions.

I have been advised by Martin Lagerwey that this insect is a "Spiny Leaf Insect" (Extatosoma tiaratum). It is a native Stick Insect.

"It is covered in sharp spines and the legs have flattened leaf-like projections. The head has an odd pointed cone shape and looks like it is on back to front. Males have much slimmer bodies, and two pairs of fully developed wings and can fly. Females have stout abdomens, a single pair of tiny wings and cannot fly. They rely on camouflage to avoid predators, looking like a stick with leaves. When disturbed they can strike out with their spiny legs. They often curl the end of their abdomen over their back like a scorpion. The Spiny Leaf Insect is a popular insect pet."
Other Names

"Giant Prickly Stick Insect, "Macleay's Spectre"

"It is found in coastal regions of Queensland and northern New South Wales."

Thanks to Martin Lagerwey for providing the correct information.
He has a private website with information on many Stick Insects and other creatures.

As regular readers would know, I do the best I can to correctly identify any creatures I find. 
I am always happy to get correct information, when my insect ID is incorrect.

Denis Wilson.
I may be contacted via the "comments" facility, or via email, from the My Profile page.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Robertson.

I spent Christmas Day with my friends Steve and Celeste, and Jasper, as well as their nephew Tegyn. We had a very pleasant lunch, and afternoon, followed by dinner, and a couple of movies well into the evening. A very relaxing day indeed. My thanks to Steve and Celeste.

Lunch included these Green-lipped Mussels which were so striking that they just demanded being photographed.While up on their hill, I took a few photos of some of the flowers, including this image of a Dandelion seed head. I love the near-perfect architecture of this seed head (even though it is a weed). It is a beautiful thing. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
During the afternoon, Steve suddenly found a huge black "Ground Beetle" crawling over his neck. We have no idea where it came from. It was flicked off his neck, in a reflex move, and I then tried to capture it in a food container, in order to take it safely outside. The crumbs from the food container have resulted in the Beetle looking "sandy". In truth it was shiny black, with deeply furrowed elytra (wing covers) which you can see more clearly in this second image. I have not been successful in tracking down exctly what species of Beetle this is, but my blogging colleague Mosura, from Tasmania has a photo of an almost identical Ground Beetle in his photo albums - Nature of Tasmania. Mosura's photo is clearer, and his specimen clearly is not walking around in a food container.
My Beetle was safely released outside, as soon as these images were taken.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"The First Koel"

This morning, after the fog lifted about 10:00am (hooray), and watery sunshine broke through, I heard a strange bird calling. Strange for Robertson, anyway. It was a Koel. (Eudynamys scolopacea) - referred to as the "Common Koel" - obviously not a name from Robertson!

These birds are common on the coast, and these days they are common around Bowral in summer, but I have never seen or heard one in Robertson before.

Koels are Cuckoos which parasitise the nests of the large members of the Honeyeater family of birds - generally Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds. As Robertson is not an area where Eucalypts dominate the vegetation, we have relatively few nectar-bearing native plants here. As such, we are not a popular area for the Wattlebirds and Friarbirds. I have seen both here - but as migrants, flying through in migrating flocks in spring and autumn. We do have visits by the "Brush Wattlebird", but they come in when the local Mistletoes are in flower, on the Blackwood Wattles. While here, they also visit the other nectar-producing flowers we people tend to grow in our gardens. But as far as the natural bvegatation is concerned, the Mistletoes are about the only food source, for the Brush Wattlebirds here, and even they are seasonal, for only one species grows on the one species of Wattle. When these plants are not in flower the Wattlebirds move out of the area. Consequently, without their favourite "host species" of birds it has not surprised me that Koels are generally absent from Robertson.

However, here it was this morning - on Christmas Morning.

Nobody who has heard the Koel's call would refer to it as "carolling" - but forgive me a seasonal pun... it was "The First Koel", visiting me, simply for musical reasons and in search of seasonal relevance.

You may listen to the Koel call here (scroll down to the bottom right of that page, and click on the MP3 link). My bird was apparently a female, doing the second of these calls, not the slow single "ko-el" call, which is the one first played on the recording.

A Very Foggy Christmas Eve

This photo was taken on Tuesday evening, but it could equally well have been taken on Wednesday evening, Christmas Eve - for the fog has not lifted in Robertson all day. Even now, at 2:00am Christmas morning, it is still foggy outside. after 36 hours of fog. Everything is wet and soggy outside.
I went to visit my friend George on Christmas Eve morning, and straight away I realised the local birds were active (despite the fog). I went back to the car to get the camera, and managed to take the following images.

Unusually, the first bird to come in was the "Blue Bird", the male Satin Bowerbird. I say unusually, because these guys are usually very secretive - hanging out behind the dense bushes, or high in the trees - as in this image.
These birds are permanent residents in George's front yard, indeed there is a bower in there, behind the Azaleas. However, one seldom gets a good view of them, or if you do, it will usually be a very quick glance. On the bird's back, the sheen of the feathers is visible.
Even today, each visit by the male Bowerbird was a "snatch and grab affair" - very quick. Indeed the bird managed to steal the "Savoiardi biscuits" we offered them, and then it would hide behind a pot or a rock, to eat the crumbs in private, then jump out in the open for just a brief moment, to grab another crumb.

These birds are so dark blue, they are almost "beyond black" their feathers seem to be a "black hole" of colour.
The female Bowerbirds, (and the young males), are less secretive, presumably because of their camouflaged plumage, which makes them blend in with the mossy rocks of George's garden. And today, this female was quite co-operative. The dark beak indicates it is a female, not an immature male, which would have a bone-coloured beak (as in the male above). I love the magenta flashes within the otherwise blue eye. Wonderful.
The Brown Pigeon (OK, Brown Cuckoo-Dove) was hanging around on George's roof, prior to visiting his bird feeder. A lovely bird, with delicate grey and cinnamon colours.One surprise was to see this Lewin's Honeyeater come in close to the open kitchen door, to pick a few crumbs of the sweet biscuits. These birds are also regulars around Robertson gardens, but one seldom gets as good a look as this.Eventually, the elusive Wonga Pigeon even overcame its urge for secrecy to openly come in and grab some biscuit crumbs. Normally, even if I am sitting inside George's family room, behind the glass, if I reach for the camera, the Wonga is "off'. Even though these birds are big and fat, they walk very quickly around George's paving, and usually keep their distance. Even when this bird did eventually come in closely, it was a snatch and grab affair, before it scurried off to a more private corner of the yard. Finally, here is a "faked up" image from two years ago, also taken at George's place. A Wonga Pigeon, seemingly wearing a Santa Hat - which is my way of wishing you all my readers a very Happy Christmas.Thanks to George for his friendship, his coffee, over the last year, and the chance to enjoy the birds which visit his yard.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nepean River - Absolute headwaters.

On Sunday afternoon I went with some other friends to visit Emma and Jonnie and their family for Christmas celebrations.

I had known for a long time that one of these little gullies (which head off towards Sydney, from the northern edge of the Robertson district) was the actual head of the Nepean, but apparently this is it.

The light was suitable, in the late afternoon for photographing the local valley, which I had ascertained from some other friends, was indeed the head of the Nepean River. Emma confirmed it for me.

Looking westward, and uphill, you can see the boundary of this catchment. Just over this hilltop, in the westerly direction, one comes to Robertson proper, and the headwaters of Caalang Creek, the start of the Wingecarribee River system- which runs to the Wollondilly River and hence to Warragamba Dam. So, over the hill lies a different catchment.
Click on these images to enlarge them
(to make reading the labels easier).You can see where there is a very small farm dam, which I have marked (above) and the line of a soak which leads down to the first properly formed creek line - the true start of the Nepean River valley.This lovely scene shows the real start of the Nepean River - as a recognisable creek.And to put it all into the picture, this image shows the start of the Kangaloon forested area which is the start of the Sydney Catchment "Special Area". In the far distance is the Kangaloon Aquifer area, and the main part of the "Catchment".
Once the Nepean River crosses "Tourist Road" (about 3 kilometres below this point) it enters the true "Catchment" it becomes a classic river on a sandstone rock base (having started up here in the basalt "red soil" country). Once within the sandstone area, it quickly starts to form a series of canyons and gorges.

The Nepean River merges with the Hawkesbury River, at the base of the Blue Mountains. The Hawkesbury-Nepean River system defines the "Sydney Basin". This giant river then enters the ocean at Broken Bay, north of Lion Island, just north of Palm Beach (north from Sydney).

The Hawkesbury is the major river which one crosses on the way north to Newcastle. Gosford is located on the northen side of the River, as it enters "Broken Bay".

Very few people, (especially few Sydneysiders) realise that the mighty Hakesbury-Nepean River system starts right here, on the edge of Robertson. Silly them!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A visit by an Eagle

Two days ago, a strong "sea breeze' was blowing wispy clouds up and over the edge of the escapment. With the breeze came one of the Wedge-tailed Eagles which live just below Robbo, in the wild country of the coastal escarpment, just 5 Kilometres east of Robertson.

The Eagle spent about half an hour floating around, on the uplifts created by our two local ridges here, along Fountaindale Road, 600 metres to my east, and my own local ridge, along Missingham Parade, where I live.

Looking at the pictures, it is apparent to me, (in view of its orientation, relative my house) that the wind was a "nor-easter" - perhaps not quite a "sea breeze".
As soon as the Eagle arrived, the local Ravens gave chase to it. Which allowed me to catch this next shot.

This is an "action shot". The Raven is preparing to "dive bomb" the Eagle again - and the Eagle knows it! The Raven is calling aggressively. Its beak is open, and the Raven is very actively adjusting its position relative to the Eagle - hence the "awkward pose". Similarly, the Eagle is looking up over its shoulder, to check where the Raven is, and is also adjusting its flight pattern, hence the twisted tail feathers, and awkward angle of the wings. (Click on the image to enlarge it)
However, after only a few minutes of harassment, the Raven gave up, but the Eagle continued to soar on the breeze and the updrafts. It had moved just a little further up and away, hence the smaller images.

Eagle circling smoothly, on the breeze.
Eagle dropping slightly into the breeze, to pick up speed.
Eagle just floating into the breeze, almost at a "stall".
I love it when the Eagles visit my home. Its not just the "convenience factor", of not having to leave home to see such great birds. It is more the fact that I know I am living amongst the local Eagles.

My friend and fellow blogger "Miss Eagle" will be jealous.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Summer Solstice

Tomorrow, Sunday 21 December, will be the Summer Solstice (in the Southern Hemisphere).I am getting in a little bit early, partly because of Christmas festivities, but more particularly because of the vagaries of Robertson sunsets (in this particular early summer season). When the sun set last night (19 December 2008) I was able to snap a shot of the sun setting behind the southern edge of the large Blackwood Wattle tree below my house. With the cloudy weather we have been having recently, I figured this was a close as I am likely to get this year, to recording a "Summer Solstice" sunset - its furthest southerly reach.

The rest of this story is for Leo, my peony-growing colleague in Canada.

You see, we take little note of the Summer Solstice in Australia, for although technically it marks the furthest southerly movement of the Sun, and the longest day, we all know that it is far from the hottest time of the year. The really hot days are not expected until the end of January. Conversely, for Leo, in the northern Hemisphere, there will be a similar delay between now and the coldest period of weather, in Nova Scotia.

But Leo and I both know that our Peonies take their growth cues from the cycles of the sun, rather than the warmth or coldness of the weather. Peonies adjust their growth and flowering times according to the length of the day. So, from tomorrow, Leo will be able to convince himself that his Peonies will be on their way back to growth, and ultimately to next year's flowering period. We Peony growers read the seasons according to the way the Peonies relate to the length of the days.

Leo ended a somewhat sombre email about the recent health problems his beloved canine companion with this note:

Oooo, almost the solstice already. Heavens!

So this post is for Leo - Your Sun will start returning from tomorrow.

This picture was of a particularly early and heavy snow fall on 24 November at Leo's place in Nova Scotia - even Leo thought this was too much snow, too early in the season. The snow drift is approximately 50 cm deep.
No wonder he is looking forward to the Solstice. Personally I could not stand living in such a climate - but as with everything, it is what one is used to , I guess. But we all need an occasional cheering up.

Of course, it is no co-incidence that Christmas and Hanukkah both occur close to the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere - at a time when people have always needed a little cheering up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Fat, Furry Moth doing loops on my deck.

This moth was doing loops on the surface of my back deck, late this afternoon.
It seemed unable, or unwilling to fly properly, but was walking around in tight circles, flapping its wings furiously. I say "furiously" because I had to set the shutter speed to 1/500th of a second to get a clear image of all the wings. 1/160th was too slow.
Rear View, wings flapping furiously.
Extremely extended abdomen.
The closest I can come to an D for this moth is Periscepta polysticta.
Don Herbison-Evans has this page for the species.
Graeme Cocks has this page for this species on his Insects of Townsville site .
CSIRO has this image of the species.
Thanks to Mosura for the easy to compare photos of adult moths on his Website, and for the links to original photos.

DJW EDIT: Junior Lepid has suggested Nataxa flavescens. Donald Hobern's photos are of a moth very similar to mine. Thanks to all.

Front on view
Orange head, and two yellow dots eather side of head.
Other species which I investigated were the similarly striped and hairy Apina callisto, but it has distinctive spots along the trailing edge of its wings. Another in the Noctuidae group is the Vine Moth, Phalaenoides glycinae. Junior Lepid had a wonderful image of that moth a few weeks ago. That image shows that my Moth is not that species, even though there are obvious siimilarities.Before considering these Moths, I had assumed it was one of the Tiger Moth group - the Arctiidae - I was inclined to that group initially because of the colouring, and also the extreme hairyness around the collar. But when I looked at them, I could not find a match there.

Head on view, with face, antennae and legs clearly visible.
Click to enlarge.
If I have got this ID wrong, please tell me.

Also, if anyone can explain what the Moth was doing flapping around in circles on my deck, and why, I would appreciate that information.

And is it a heavily pregnant Moth? It looked like it was about to burst.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wet, Wet, Wet.

Hopefully other people are getting some of what we are getting here in Robertson. We have had 4 days of mist, drizzle and today we have had steady rain alternating with heavy rain.

As of Midnight on Friday we have had 65 mm since 9:00am this morning.
Forecasts indicate that even South Australia and southern Victoria are due for some pretty good rain. Lets hope so. Those areas need it much more than we do.

This female Bowerbird (or at least a "green" bird - I could not see its beak colour) flew out into the rain briefly, late in the afternoon, posing for a distant photo. Poor thing was soaking wet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life and Death on a Scribbly Gum

Scribbly Gums in the sandstone country of Kangaloon are an endless source of fascination. So many insects live on these grand trees, and even just between ground level and my head height, one can see so many different insects using the bark as a home, or as a thoroughfare, or, as in this evening's post, as a dining table.

The first insect is a Moth which at first I assumed would be a "Scribbly Gum Moth" one of the moths responsible for leaving the trails in the bark - from which these Gum Trees take their "common name". In fact this Gum is Eucalyptus haemastoma one of a series of smooth-barked Eucaluypts which are attractive to the Scribbly Gum Moths. Many smooth-barked Eucalypts are NOT attractive to these moths. In my former stamping ground of Canberra, the local "Scribbly Gum" is Eucalyptus rossii

Anyway, after having consulted with some Mothy people, it is clear that the true "Scribbly Gum Moth" is much smaller than this. Which leaves me with a blank ID for this moth.
All I know is that it is a day-flying moth, about the size of my fingertip, therefore, I would say it is about 10 - 12 mm in length. With opened wings, I would estimate 15 - 18 mm in wing-span. When it flew, it flew quickly, a short distance and hid again, in near perfect camouflage, on the bark of its beloved tree.

Click on image to see details of head and antennae
The antennae are very long, and folded back along its wings. The palps on the snout of the moth are upturned, with a distinct V shape protrusion. There also appears to be a white, round structure behind the eye, near the front of its wings, but I cannot make anything of it. Its eyes are white.
These two images are of the same moth, in different positions, but similar "stance" each time it landed.

This next insect is "Common Black Robber Fly". As "Robber Flies" go, this one is pretty small. Some have much heavier bodies, and are capable of killing and carrying quite large prey, such as bees, or wasps.
Interestingly, having seen this insect on the trunk of the tree, it re-appeared just a few moments later, with a tiny yellow moth it had just caught. The Fly has landed awkwardly, and is trying to gain its balance, and to secure its grip on the moth.
A matter of moments later, after flying a short distance, and having re-arranged its grip on its prey, the Robber Fly is about to settle down to sucking the life-juices out of the moth.
Click on the image below
to get a good look at the
face of the moth, its eye and antenna.
Life and Death on a Scribbly Gum - in the arms of a Robber Fly.